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What is ocean-bound plastic?

August 11, 2023

As more and more companies are starting to use recycled plastics in their products, the terminology related to this material has developed as well. The story has become more nuanced. It is not good enough any more to just talk about the fact that the plastic is recycled. The focus has shifted towards the source. Where did the material come from before it was brought back into the material cycle? What's the context and therefore the value attached to the material?

And as is usual when a discussion is more widely held, people (read: consumers) get smarter along the way. A couple of years ago, "ocean plastic" was a term encompassing everything from the most degraded piece of plastic waste which has been in the ocean for years up to a pristine water bottle found in a trash bin at the back of a restaurant which happened to be somewhat close to the ocean. This broad use of language is less accepted now, there's a need for specific, distinct and transparent terminology.

Entering a new concept: ocean-bound plastic. What does it mean exactly?

The first definition of ocean-bound plastic (OBP) waste was introduced by Jenna Jambeck et al. in a publication in the "Science" magazine in 2015. The study examines the impact of land-based plastic waste on marine habitats; it gives an estimation of the amount of land-sourced plastic ending up in the ocean. The research defines OBP as: “[…] mismanaged plastic waste generated […] by populations living 50 km off a coast […] that can potentially enter the ocean as marine debris.”

While estimates assert that 80% of the plastic in the ocean comes from land-based sources and the demand for plastics is expected to exponentially grow in the coming decades, it is urgent to implement long-lasting solutions to stop plastic flows into the ocean.

This phenomenon is particularly burdening in areas that are devoid of efficient waste management systems.

How to prove that plastic waste is OBP?

In an attempt to counter OBP pollution and incentivize organizations and companies to become part of the solution, Zero Plastic Oceans launched the Ocean-Bound Plastic Certification in collaboration with Control Union. Within the scope of the accreditation, the organization adds onto Jambeck's definition of ocean-bound plastic by dividing it into 4 categories:

#tide ocean material_Plastic pollution_OBP_Ocean-bound plastic


mismanaged plastic waste located within a radius of 50 km of the coastline

#tide ocean material_Plastic pollution_OBP_Ocean-bound plastic

2. Waterways OBP

mismanaged plastic waste found 200m from & in rivers


3. Shoreline OBP

mismanaged plastic waste found 200m from shores


4. Fishing material

used fishing gear and plastic bycatch

If the plastic waste is found in controlled landfills, it is not considered ocean-bound plastic. This also means that ocean-bound plastic should not be mistaken with ocean plastic, which refers to all the plastics present in the ocean going much beyond the compass of OBP.

In the auditing process, the organization takes the following criteria into consideration:

  • The collection of OBP

  • The proper management of OBP

  • The adequate recycling of OBP

  • Social and environmental standards

At #tide, we comply with strict environmental, social, and ethical standards. We trusted the OBP endorsement by Zero Plastic Oceans because it best reflects the extent of our brand philosophy and impact.

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#tide® is made with 100% OBP

We are proud to have engineered a product made of 100% upcycled ocean-bound plastic. There is simply too much plastic waste washing ashore coastal areas, including virgin plastic in our solution was out of the question since the very beginning: #tide ocean material® had to be 100% sustainable.

For over a year now, we have been OBP certified by Zero Plastic Oceans for the OBP grade, origin, and quality of our #tide ocean material as well as for its social and environmental impact.

The OBP certification is a independent, third party recognition for our operation and material quality, it also recognizes the ethical scope of our business model; At #tide, we do not only care about the environment but also about the people who are helping us on our journey. It is crucial for us that that all parties involved in our supply chain benefit from our value proposition.

The OBP Certification enhances the traceability of recycled OBP materials all along the journey, which is a great plus in one’s efforts to become more transparent.

At #tide, we even went one step further: we reduced the collecting distance of OBP to 10km off the coastline instead of 50km in Thailand.

#tide ocean material_Matthias Oppliger_Partnerships Director

“Preventing OBP from entering the oceans is a collective effort. Thank you to all the organizations and individuals who join us on our journey towards waste free oceans.”

Matthias Oppliger, Partnerships Director