From Harmful Ocean Plastics to Something Brilliant to Ride
Bureo, a company funded from Patagonia’s $20 Million and Change fund (now Tin Shed Ventures) is reversing the tide on the most devastating form of ocean plastics: discarded fishing nets. Due to inadequate policies, disposal centers and services, nets are are often tossed into the sea at the end of their useful life and attribute to 10% of all ocean plastic. What make makes these rogue nets so problematic is that they often trap marine life and wreak havoc on reefs.
As avid watermen and ocean lovers, Bureo’s founders set out to tackle this problem. Their solution is to make new products from fishing nets before they are dumped out at sea. In the process they have created a company that is doing good for people, the marine environment, and for their business. The nets are collected from fishermen in South America then washed, ground down and turned into pellets that can be used in standard injection molding machines for the creation of new plastic products.
The recycled fishing net material made by Bureo is use by several notable brands, but they are best known for the creation of two skateboard models, the Ahi and the Minnow. These skateboards feature a deck made from their Net Plus material and wheels that are 30% veggie oil. Each board contains a security loop that allows the board to be easily locked with a standard bike lock for safe storage. These boards are rugged and made to last.
From an outsider's perspective, it has been hard to determine if Bureo is a supplier or a consumer brand. On one hand they provide an amazing material for other companies, however, they also appear to be very consumer focused. This is evident by their ecommerce site and amazing original content. Understanding their customer is important in evaluating them from a Human Centered Design and Circular Economy stand point.
As a supplier, they provide a great opportunity for companies who are looking for a recycled product with a great story. There is no doubt that Bureo excels in this. However forging a partnership with the right companies for the right product is important, especially as purpose-centric recycled plastics become trendy. For example, I wonder if replacing what would otherwise be a wooden product with that of a recycled plastic product is better for the environment. This is not a critique of Bureo as much as it is a question to be considered by brands at large and how to properly navigate such a trend especially as recycled plastic stories have grown front and center recently. Careful consideration must be made when looking to reintroduced plastic in the supply chain and transparency from brands will help everyone make good decisions.
Hats of to Bureo for creating a businesses that has positive impact on the environment and helps grow wealth for underserved regions of the world. Truly an inspiration.