By Riley Kaminer
We have a plastic problem. The proliferation of disposable plastic products has lead to major plastic pollution – which in turn lowers biodiversity, pollutes our water and air, and reduces ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change.
The UN notes that the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our ocean every minute. That’s because around 7 billion of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced from 1950-2017 became plastic waste, ending up in landfills or dumped.
It’s a dire situation, and one that can have particularly negative effects on our local community, considering our proximity to the ocean.
The good news is that Miami startup SeaSweepers is doing its part to break this chain of pollution. The company produces swimwear, activewear and bracelets – all made out of upcycled ocean plastics and fishnets.
But this is just the beginning. SeaSweepers, which launched around a year and a half ago, plans to channel the revenue from its products into building what it describes as the first US-based marine plastics recycling center.
“No one is attacking the entire value stream when it comes to marine plastic pollution,” CEO and co-founder Naveen Sydney told Refresh Miami. “People have bracelets, people have movements, people do ocean cleanups, and then we have separate efforts on recycling.”
He continued: “But no one’s looking at the entire regenerative and the upcycling market and figuring out a way to leverage the technology we have today to clean up marine plastics, microplastics – anything that’s in the water. Much less the after-effects of the pollution we’ve already caused.”
For that reason SeaSweepers is looking to launch their facility, ideally somewhere in Miami-Dade County, somewhere within the next year to year and a half. There, SeaSweepers will take raw materials such as ghost fishing nets – abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear – and manufacture plastic pellets. With an estimated 640,000 tons of ghost nets being left in the ocean each year, there will be no lack of supply.
Then, SeaSweepers will ensure that every ton of its output is tracked on a public blockchain. “It will be open source, so sustainable agencies can record their products, and governments could have nodes,” said Sydney. “When everything makes it onto the blockchain, that makes this data impossible to manipulate.”
This web3 angle is central to the SeaSweepers story. Sydney originally met his co-founder and COO, Taryn Sage Larock, at the Bitcoin conference in Miami Beach two years ago.
SeaSweepers – which currently has five full-time employees – has ambitious plans to scale, hoping to achieve $20 million in revenue in the first two years its facility is active. Once they can scale up to about 10 tons an hour, Sydney asserts that they will be looking at over $100 million in revenue each year. SeaSweepers also hopes to also set up a marketplace where ethical companies can sell their products, as well as eventually issue carbon credits.
“This will be very disruptive to the current polymer industry,” said Larock, noting that this model is unique to SeaSweepers. “There’s a major flaw in the current equation. That’s what we’re here to solve.”
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