These strengthened industry standards include critical new social standards, ethical sourcing criteria, third-party, independent validation of all recycled ocean-bound plastics, clear definitions of ocean-bound materials and standards on where coastal collection should happen.
These new elevated standards and ethical sourcing criteria come after two years of close collaboration between OceanCycle and UL to build on each company’s initial standards for ocean-bound materials to help counter greenwashing in the industry.
OceanCycle and UL will continue collaborating to drive dialogue on standards and encourage the industry to agree on common definitions and processes — similar to what the Association of Plastic Recyclers achieved for post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics. The companies will leverage their expertise in ocean plastics recycling and certification to encourage more responsible sourcing, focus efforts and resources on countries and coastal regions most at-risk for ocean plastic pollution, and grow the ethically sourced ocean-bound plastics market. While it will take time to establish these new standards, they can immediately serve as a guidepost for brands and companies looking to integrate ethically sourced, ocean-bound plastics into their supply chains and products.
Standards for recycled ocean-bound plastics promote real transparency, traceability and accountability for real change:
OceanCycle and UL’s collaboration has resulted in an alignment of standards, providing a 100 percent independent, third-party certification of ocean-bound plastics’ recycling supply chains to help ensure that standards meet international quality, ethical, environmental and labor requirements. Purchasers of OceanCycle Certified™ (OCC) materials have end-to-end traceability, from bottle collection through manufacturing.
Purchasers and consumers will know that OCC materials meet the following criteria:
- Coastal collection standards: To maximize the impact on the ocean-bound plastic issue, these new standards clarify collection efforts should focus on areas within 30 miles of a coast or along river banks within 200 miles of the mouth of the water. Additionally, collection efforts should focus on areas that lack an established municipal waste management system.
- Ethically sourced: Must be collected in an ethical manner ensuring no harmful child labor and fair wages to collectors. Every factory, aggregation site and collection center subscribe to a zero-tolerance policy regarding child labor, with a penalty of immediate exclusion from the program for any breach. Landfill collection is excluded due to its inherent risk to collectors and propensity for harmful labor practices.
- Clear standards for acceptable materials: Ensure collection efforts focus on the highest impact areas. Acceptable materials for collection must be post-consumer, and all post-industrial and imported waste must be excluded from certification.
- Documentation: Compliance with OceanCycle’s end-to-end traceability, documented from bottle collection to final production-ready materials and manufacturing.
OceanCycle also partners with local recyclers to elevate the well-being and livelihoods of the people collecting material in communities. The social audits and surveys help baseline income levels and community needs and give insights to the recyclers, material brokers and brand partners on meeting those needs. In many cases, the people collecting the material are the most vulnerable. However, with proper support, they can collect more material in a better manner that both improves incomes and increases recycling rates.