Planter Series Made of Ocean Plastic Waste
Denrie Caila Perez posted on April 13, 2020 |
Bloem will be launching their recycled plastic planter Ocean Series this 2020.
(Photo courtesy of Bloem.)
(Photo courtesy of Bloem.)

Approximately 40 percent of plastic will be used once in its entire lifetime. According to an estimate by the University of Georgia, between 5.3 million and 14 million tons of unrecycled plastic waste are currently in the ocean. Each year about 8.8 million tons deposited into waterways. Think five plastic grocery bags, also filled with plastic trash, lined up on every foot of coastline around the world. It’s this that has prompted planter manufacturer Bloem to launch the Ocean Series—a line that features products using 100% recycled material.

According to the company, they will be using over a million pounds of plastic waste: 25 percent will be reprocessed material from marine waste while 75 percent will be coming from curbside waste.

The manufacturing process will also involve recycling organizations partnered with Bloem responsible for collecting plastic waste along coastlines in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Canada. The waste will then be separated from the resin supply, leaving the base material which will be used for creating the planters. According to Bloem, the organizations will handle this preparation part of the process before beginning manufacturing in their facility at Apopko, Florida.

The Ocean Series is distinct for its vibrant blue color. However, the company has expressed that maintaining the consistency of this particular shade was probably the most challenging part in using ocean plastic. To solve this, material development efforts blended the recycled plastic in order to create a workable and malleable resin.

This series has been three years in the making with Bloem making plans to shift its manufacturing capabilities to accommodate plastic waste as a working material. The company has already released designs of the planters. The Ocean Series will include 6", 8", and 12" round planters, along with a 24" rectangular window box reminiscent of Bloem's Dayton Series.

The director of Bloem, Kate Wiltzer shares on the process of material development to achieve the color consistency:

"Among the first steps in the ocean/marine waste recycling and repelletizing process are sortation procedures.  The waste is initially sorted by material type (polypropylene, HDPE, PET, etc.) and then there is a color sort procedure.  Following the correct material sort, the ocean waste is sorted in common color batches.  For our requirements, we obtain the  recycled pellets in a green/blue shade.  Each time the recycle process is run for the conversion of the ocean waste into a reprocessed pellet, as you would expect from the recycled content, it has color variation from batch to batch.  To meet our customer color standards we run our product line with a color concentrate termed ocean denim blue.  We use 2% colorant with our ocean resin & post-consumer resin to achieve the desired color.  This concentrate was co-developed at Bloem with our colorant supplier and is specifically formulated to work only with our ocean resin program."

Injection molding machine (Image courtesy of Bloem).
Injection molding machine (Image courtesy of Bloem).

How are the pots created? She also tells us: "As mentioned above our ocean program includes a blend of ocean/marine waste and post-consumer plastic waste.  It is polypropylene based and the specific blends are formulated in our plant to meet our injection processing standards and customer’s quality and color standards."

Injection molding machine (Image courtesy of Bloem).
Injection molding machine (Image courtesy of Bloem).

"Since Bloem's inception, we've asked ourselves how can we be innovative in a space that's seen relatively little change in over 40 years. We've looked at different shapes, colors, sizes, styles and what we've found, however, is we can have the greatest impact by changing the material that we put into the product we manufacture," says Ryan Mast of Bloem. "What's unique about this opportunity is that this plastic isn't going into a product that is just going to be discarded a couple months down the road. We are introducing the materials to a product that will have purpose for years to come."

For more information, visit Bloem

For more related stories, check out the role engineers can play against the rise of plastic waste here.

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