Method's "Ocean Plastic:" green or greenwash?

The idea of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch  - a massive island of plastic garbage swirling around in the ocean - has captured the imagination of both die-hard greenies and concerned citizens alike. Our visions aren’t quite in line with reality (it’s more of a “soup” than an island), but we’ve generally got it right on the massive part: it may be twice the size of the continental United States. So when the home cleaning products brand Method announced the launch of “a bottle made out of plastic collected from the North Pacific Gyre” (aka the Great Pacific Garbage Patch), those of us in the green media jumped at the notion of a company making an effort to clean up this mess. As it turns out, we probably should’ve looked just a bit closer before we leaped (he wrote sheepishly).

Yep, we all had another vision: Method and/or partner Envision trawling the high seas for plastic trash. But as John at It’s the Rheo Thing noted with the sharpest of eyes, that’s not exactly the case. According to Method’s own Adam Lowry (four days after the press release went out),

“On the supply chain side, we tapped into a network of beach cleanup organizations, particularly in Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the most remote land masses on the planet, and happens to sit at the southern edge of the Gyre. Because of the ocean winds and currents in the region, much of the plastic from the Gyre ends up washing up on the beaches of Hawaii.”

So, technically, the company is using plastic from the Gyre in its bottles, but it’s not really cleaning up the ocean. Rather, the ocean’s belching up some of that plastic onto beaches in Hawaii, and volunteers are picking up that trash and handing it over to Method/Envision. Hair splitting? Perhaps. But take a look at the line quoted from the company’s press release above: “a bottle made out of plastic collected from the North Pacific Gyre.” I think that’s enough to qualify as a Sin of Vagueness.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for using recycled plastic in this manner, and I’m definitely a fan of cleaning up beaches. There’s nothing wrong with what Method is actually doing, I’d just like to see them do more of it. And “Beach PCR” doesn’t sound any less sexy to me than “Ocean PCR,” but litter on our beaches hasn’t quite captured our imagination to the same degree as a massive, swirling gyre of garbage in the middle of the Pacific, so picking up bottles on the shore (which anyone could do) doesn’t have quite the cachet of “collecting them from the Gyre” (which sounds like it could’ve come out of a Herman Melville novel).

Too harsh? Let us know what you think.


Image credit: ingridtaylar at Flickr under a Creative Commons license