The issue of plastic is an entirely anthropogenic one; plastic would not and cannot exist without human intervention. However, in spite of humans being the only contributors to the plastic crisis, an estimated 22 million kilograms of plastic continues to flow into the ocean every day. This does not even begin to cover the issue of microplastics that are, by and large, entirely imperceptible. What we have been seeing in greater frequency over the past two years is the devastating impacts plastic has on ecosystems. Around the world, 100,000 animals die every year as a result of plastic pollution. However, solutions to the plastic crisis stem not only from removing the plastic already in the ocean but also from altering our behaviour with regard to manufacturing and waste management.
This is where Ocean Bottle comes in; focussing on four key thematic areas: ocean health, social good, climate action and closing the loop, Ocean Bottle aims to reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean and harming marine ecosystems. How? Through their entirely recyclable water bottles.
Ocean Bottles are anti-leak, BPA-free*, dishwasher safe and made from stainless steel and recycled biomaterial from food waste. As a result of this, the bottle is also able to keep your water at whatever temperature you require. These elements allow the bottles to be used not just frequently, but for a long time. The facilitates usage to be sustained as long as possible and also reduces the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean.
*First discovered in the 1890s, BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical that is added to many commercial products, including food containers and hygiene products. BPA’s chemical structure is a lot like oestrogen. As a result of this, it can bind to oestrogen receptors in the body and influence bodily processes, such as growth, cell repair, fetal development, energy levels, and reproduction.
Ocean Bottle provides a very clear infographic outlining its supply chain within its impact report. In this report, they state that they are “proud to say that [their] factory is in China.” When deciding upon which factories to use, members of Ocean Bottle visited in order to vet their working conditions. Now, over 15,000 solar panels have been installed upon the factories’ rooftops, which generates 10% of their total power. The factories also have BSCI and SEDEX certifications. When audits are passed, BSCI certifications ensure that a particular company ensures that its workers have freedom of association (that is, to unionise), that there are a prohibition of discrimination and child labour policies, workplace health and safety measures and fair working hours, amongst other criteria.
I was pleased to see that Ocean Bottle’s supply chain avoids air freight entirely; air travel is responsible for 2% of global emissions with this in mind, using alternative modes of transport would be expected; Ocean Bottle delivers on this front.
Of course, all of the above will raise the price of the product itself. This is present in the bottle’s case with its price point of £40. While this £40 will invariably balance out to mean that an overall saving is made, I do think that it is also important to raise the issue of how one payment of £40 may be inaccessible for some people. This is because it is required in one large lump sum. Saving may become difficult due to the unpredictable nature of personal expenses, particularly in the times we are currently in. It would be great for Ocean Bottle to perhaps implement an incremental payment system for those who would like the bottle but can only pay in instalments.
Having said this, Ocean Bottle does offer students a 20% discount when they register for free with Student Beans. When commenting on why they do not do general discount codes, they have stated that “We can't promise you that Ocean Bottle is the cheapest reusable bottle out there, but we can promise that every Ocean Bottle sold makes a difference to our oceans and to the lives of our collectors.” While I believe this to be true, I also think it would have been worthwhile for Ocean Bottle to point out more explicitly that buying the bottle is not necessarily tantamount to being a “good” environmentalist. While the bottle may make a difference to our oceans, it is not the only way you can make a difference. OceanBottle should emphasise this on its website.
Ocean Bottle was founded by William Pearson and Nick Doman in 2018 after they met at London Business School. One of Ocean Bottle’s slogans is “help us go out of business.” In other words, help eradicate the issue of plastic pollution entirely. This includes from the source, re-thinking the materials we use in manufacturing but also how we dispose of waste and how best to actualise a circular economy.
Ocean Bottle prides itself on its transparency. At the end of each year, Ocean Bottle produces a yearly impact report outlining the progress it has made towards mitigating the plastic crisis. For instance, in 2020, 1,139,949kgs of ocean-bound plastic was collected by the company; 144 community projects were funded and they have offset 481.53 tonnes of carbon dioxide. They have also partnered with CHOOOSE, a platform aimed at providing companies such as Ocean Bottle with climate-friendly ways of operating, and invested 90% of their offset credits in Mikoko Pamoja, a mangrove restoration project in Kenya. Closer to home, they have also sent 75 Ocean Bottles to the staff at NHS providers around the UK.
Overall, I believe water bottles by Ocean Bottle are a great way to minimise your single-use plastic usage. However, I do think – even with the student discount – the price point remains a little too high in order to best encourage more people to engage with environmentalism. While I appreciate that the price represents the work put in to ensure all stakeholders are treated ethically, without any sort of incremental payment system, it risks perpetuating the idea that environmentalism is only for the affluent.
In all, Ocean Bottle seems to be doing a good job at protecting the oceans and for this reason, it is given a rating of 2.25.