Ocean Bottle has been named Sustainability Partner at the Virtual Travel Retail Expo, pledging to rid the ocean of the equivalent of 500,000 plastic bottles as a direct result of the Expo presence. That’s the equivalent of a hefty 5,000kg of ocean waste.

Ocean Bottle aims to help stop ocean plastic pollution at the source and simultaneously improve the lives of millions of people. Co-founder Will Pearson talked to The Moodie Davitt Report about the brand’s development and its fight to help the planet.

Pearson says that ocean plastic is expected to quadruple by 2040. “We need to act fast if we are to have an effect. The Virtual Travel Retail Expo is the ideal place to get our message across to those in the travel and travel retail business,” he comments.

“I see this as a plastic positive event to raise participants’ awareness to the problem, get them involved in the journey to reduce single plastic consumption and become part of our global impact.”

Ocean Bottle collaborates with Plastic Bank, an initiative which aims to empower a regenerative society – “turning plastic into gold” – by revolutionising the world’s recycling systems.

Plastic Bank builds recycling ecosystems in under-developed communities in an effort to fight both plastic pollution in oceans, as well as high poverty levels in developing countries.

Collectors in coastal communities exchange the waste plastic they collect for money, healthcare, tech products, tuition and micro-finance via blockchain technology at their local Plastic Bank.

The material is then recycled, reused and repurposed by companies which support a circular economy and the elimination of plastic waste.

The Ocean Bottle concept was launched through a highly-successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018, featuring 200 gram bottles in a range of colours.

Earlier this month, the brand introduced a larger Big Ocean Bottle (BOB), again through Kickstarter, which was fully funded within minutes.

The brand’s bottles are made from stainless steel and recycled ocean bound plastic, with design input from Norwegian company, K8 Industries. Each Ocean Bottle comes equipped with a NFC smart chip which, according to Pearson, offers customers the opportunity to personally impact ocean waste.

Bottle owners can register the product and fund more plastic collection through purchasing at selected points of sale. Full details on refilling stations are also provided and bottle users can join the brand’s #BYOB (Bring you own Ocean Bottle) campaign.

“There is a a very strong personal element in this,” Pearson says. “My partner Nick Doman and I exist to enable individuals around the world to have a global impact on the plastic crisis.”

Pearson’s inspiration for Ocean Bottle came from a love of the sea, a passion for sustainability and a year working on a boat in the Indian Ocean.

“I was born in the UK and moved to Norway when I was ten. I was lucky enough to enjoy quite a bit of sailing with my grandfather which gave me an early connection with the ocean,” Pearson explains.

Through a high school geography teacher’s millennial development project, Pearson “latched on to the environment, the intersection between people and planet”.

He continues, “I became obsessed. I would go home, talking at my parents for hours about various problems and trying to fix them. I’ve been interested in this space for a long time.”

Ocean Bottle Co-founder Will Pearson takes a hands-on approach to impacting ocean plastic waste

The stint on the Indian Ocean-faring boat provided Pearson with first-hand experience of the huge problem of ocean plastic waste.

“I saw plastic absolutely everywhere. And, when I started to research the problem, I then discovered that horrific statistic for 2040. I wanted to take action and do something about it and, at the same time, became very aware that individuals all around the world wanted to make an impact.

“With my partner, Nick, the two things came together when we created Ocean Bottle,” Pearson says.

With a ‘Buy 1, Collect 1,000’ tagline, every Ocean Bottle funds the collection of the equivalent to 1000 plastic bottles. “So far, we’ve done around 200 million plastic bottles, an amount which could actually circle the planet. I think the scary thing about that is that we’re only just scraping the surface of the issue.”

Commenting on the Ocean Bottle design, Pearson said the brand wanted to “level up the entire category”, adding, “There are all sorts of different designs out there really they are just bottles and we wanted our product to be so much more than that.

“We made a conscious decision to have two USPs (unique selling propositions). One obviously was impact and the other an uncompromising product. A product to ensure we could deliver a best-in-class product that people would want to use every day, to reduce their own plastic consumption and also to make a statement about the kind of world they want to live in.”

Pearson underlined the impact Ocean bottle has already had in impoverished coastal communities in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil, and also in Egypt.

“Through Plastic Bank’s collection points, locals can exchange plastic waste for money, digital tokens, products or access micro finance, tuition and medical insurance. I suppose we are really turning waste into value, putting a value on plastic waste and kind of flipping the problem on its head. So this is really exciting.”

Ocean Bottle’s focus on travel retail was inevitably delayed by the COVID crisis. Now it is intent on increasing its footprint in the channel, and listings with Hurtigruten and Viking Cruises are set to be boosted through another major partnership to be announced soon.

The brand is represented in travel retail by Irish company TR Partners. “We are proud to be representing Ocean Bottle in global travel retail,” comments TR Partners Managing Director Vincent McDermott.

“Partnering with such an innovative brand that is making a proven difference to our planet as well as to the lives of the people that live in it, makes this so rewarding.”

“I believe Ocean Brand has a role to play in making travel more sustainable,” Pearson says.

He noted travellers’ continued reliance on single use bottles. “It’s strange, but it seems that many people find a license, a reason, to use as many plastic bottles as they like when they are on holiday.” That said, he also notes the huge increase in the number of holidaymakers, and travel retailers, seeking sustainability-minded brands.

“Ocean Bottle is actually a great gift for someone. You are giving the gift of impact,” he adds. Bespoke and possibly destination-related bottles are part of Ocean Bottle’s strategy for travel retail.

“Our ambition for 2025 is to fund the collection of an equivalent of 7 billion plastic bottles and, at the same time, stopping that from entering the ocean. Everything is working towards that target and travel retail can definitely play a role in reaching that goal.”