There’s a lot of garbage in our oceans.
The majority of it’s plastic. Marine life like sharks, dolphins, whales, fish, even birds mistake it for food and try to eat it, often suffering starvation because they can’t digest it.
Almost all our oceans contain plastic “gyres” – accumulated plastic trash that’s been swept out to sea or been dumped and carried by currents into a swirling maelstrom. Gyres exist in the northern Pacific Ocean (the Pacific Garbage Patch) is larger than the state of Texas), the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Swedish-based Electrolux – international manufacturer of quality appliances including their well-known vacuum cleaners – has taken up the issue head on, launching a global initiative to work with organizations to begin recovering plastic from the ocean.
On October 26th, Electrolux introduced five colorful and unique vacuum cleaners crafted from plastic debris from five ocean gyres.
in 2008, Electrolux began incorporating recycled plastic into their products and quickly realized there were problems.
- Plastics were used once, then discarded.
- Plastic was leaking out, contaminating waterways.
- There wasn’t enough of the right kind of plastic on land to make their products.
There’s a “system malfunction” in regards to recycled plastic availability, said Cecilia Nord, Electrolux’s Vice President – Floor Care Sustainability and Environmental Affairs.
So Electrolux began discussing reclaiming plastic from the ocean.
Electrolux began working with organizations like Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.), Blue View Divers in Thailand and Surfrider Foundation in France, forming a network that spanned the globe to begin gathering the plastic.
“They’re the real heroes who (do) this every day in the hot spots of the world,” Nord says. “We’re the ones with the muscle (to) lift this discussion up to a global level and tie these places and issues together and show the world this is a global problem.”
The initiative’s purpose is raising awareness around the marine plastic problem by collecting ocean plastic garbage and making vacuum cleaners out of it.
Each model’s made from the unique plastic collected from that region of ocean.
The North Sea vacuum’s plastic – collected on the Swedish west coast – is a mixture of red, yellow, blue and white. The Indian Ocean model is made from clear plastic water bottles that washed up on Thailand’s coast, not surprising, says Nord, given their hot climate and large tourist industry.
The Mediterranean Sea model resembles crumpled pieces of world globes, while the Pacific Ocean’s model is a more muted mixture with smaller plastic chunks. The Baltic Sea edition contains larger round pieces. Their collection was unique, said Nord. Electrolux invited island vacationers in that region to gather plastic for the collection.
“That was going to the root cause of the problem,” Nord said.
For every area’s plastic collection, hundreds of volunteers and divers combed beaches and coral reefs, gathering fragmented plastic and empty water bottles. The resulting multiple bags of plastic trash were sorted and repacked, then shipped to Electrolux.
Now that the five models are complete, to educate the public and raise awareness, Electrolux plans a Vacs from the Sea tour.
It will use the cleaners to bring green and educationary organizations, consumer groups and recycling organizations together, says Nord.
The tour will include a growing number of European venues, including recycling and consumer fairs in Holland and Belgium, and design museums to examine the need for sustainable design and usage of plastic.
Vacs from the Sea will likely come to the United States in 2011 for the annual International Home and Housewares show in Chicago.
Electrolux is also looking at becoming more involved in supporting organizations like Algalita Marine Research Foundation and 5 Gyres – those researching the gyres and potential solutions to the plastic that’s out there.
Electrolux had already created their Green Range line of vacuums, containing as much as 70 percent recycled plastic. These green vacuums maintain the properties of the original vacuum cleaner, and, Nord said, “you get those benefits (and) the sustainability and superiority on top.”
“Out intention,” said Nord, “is the consumer should find the green alternative whatever his need is.”
To learn more about Electrolux’s campaign to reclaim plastic from our oceans, check out http://3.ly/puuw.