Right now, we’re facing a huge plastic crisis that is causing irreparable damage to our planet. More than 150 million tonnes of plastic exist in our oceans today and 49% of that is single-use plastic. The number one single-use plastic product found in the ocean is drinks bottles, caps and lids. There’s a simple solution to this problem and we spoke to Nick Doman, Co-Founder of Ocean Bottle, to learn how their new start-up is trying to tackle this problem head on.

Ocean Bottle Nick Doman
Co-founder of Ocean Bottle, Nick Doman

What is The Ocean Bottle and how is it different to regular non-plastic bottles?

The Ocean Bottle is a steel reusable bottle and each purchase funds the collection of 1000 ocean-bound plastic bottles in weight (11.368kg). We are different as we are an impact company that has one goal – to turn the tap off on ocean plastic. While we wanted to be uncompromising on impact, we also needed to be uncompromising with our design. We partnered with world class product designers K8 in Oslo to create the world’s first reusable bottle that was designed with the user in mind. The two primary features that make our bottle unique is that it is one of the first insulated bottles to be dishwasher safe and it has an NFC chip that allows us to partner with retailers to allow Ocean Bottle owners to fund collection of further plastic collection every time they purchase a drink in a partner store.

What are your goals for the company? Can you see yourself expanding to any other plastic-reducing products?

Our goal is to make as large an impact as possible – the target we have set ourselves is to collect equivalent of 3 billion plastic bottles by 2025 and we are already hitting our targets to reach this goal. As part of this plan, we see ourselves expanding in to all sorts of reusables and systems to reduce plastic consumption at home but also to fund collections around the world.

How have your own experiences influenced the social and environmental goals of The Ocean Bottle company?

Will (my Co-Founder) and I have experienced plastic pollution all over the world. Will’s most influential moment was seeing islands of plastic floating in the Indian Ocean when he was a deckhand and mine was seeing a sea of black plastic bags in a valley in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. These experiences really drove us to wanting to get involved in clearing up plastic and stopping it from entering our oceans. How would you encourage other businesses to incorporate sustainability into their day-to-day behaviour as well as their long-term plans?

Ocean Bottle

How would you encourage other businesses to incorporate sustainability into their day-to-day behaviour as well as their long-term plans?

There are so many ways that businesses can incorporate sustainability. In terms of the day-to-day, it would be giving their employees the tools to go plastic free i.e. ensuring everyone has reusable cutlery, bottles (plug) and coffee cups. There are also some other easy to adopt measures like making sure documents are only printed if absolutely necessary and keeping records digital.In the long term it becomes a bit of a different game as it requires some quite radical change for many companies. For instance, for product companies like ours the entire supply chain needs to be monitored and ensured they are produced with sustainable materials and practices. There also needs to be a dramatic shift amongst companies of all types away from carbon emitting operations and for those operations that cannot yet be carbon neutral (air travel and shipping) companies need to invest in carbon sequestering projects. It is hard to speak in general terms as all companies are different but having a sustainability team that is constantly reviewing the company’s operations against best practices and has enough autonomy to act on their findings is probably the most effective solution.

It’s easy to hear a lot of negative and worrying things about the environment and the future of the planet but your company carries an active and optimistic message. Why do you think this is important for environmental activists?

I feel really strongly about this, people are far more responsive to positivity and optimism. Environmentalism needs to be accessible for all and pessimism only serves to alienate people. It can obviously not be all positivity and sunshine but the more people actively engaged with the problem means more people are voting at the ballot box and with their wallet by avoiding environmentally damaging products. This sentiment is nicely wrapped up in the saying – we do not need a handful of people being perfectly sustainable we need millions doing it imperfectly.

My favourite example of this is the speed at which the plastic straw has all but disappeared in the UK. There was a build-up of widespread public sentiment against the plastic straw that not only did retailers up and down the country stop offering plastic straws but also the government confirmed the product would be banned from 2020. This proved that if enough people were in agreement about their desire for something more sustainable then businesses and policy makers were willing to act quickly. More and more companies are actively looking for alternatives for single-use plastic packaging as they are realising that that is what their customers want.