"We believe the 8 million metric tons of plastic flowing into our oceans is one of our planet's greatest environmental challenges and we've chosen to become part of the solution." - Rob Ianelli
They say the devil is in the details, but so are the greatest opportunities. At Outerknown, our focus on sustainability extends to every cut, stitch, and button. Especially buttons, which for our new SEA Legs pants are supplied by ocean plastic manufacturer Oceanworks. But what’s the big deal? It’s just a button, right? When it comes to Oceanworks, a button is more than it seems.
The Oceanworks story began during one of founder Rob Ianelli’s regular surf trips to Martha’s Vineyard. Sitting on the shore, staring out at the Atlantic, Rob noticed something disturbing—something he couldn’t ignore anymore. He’d surfed Martha’s Vineyard since 2009 and over that time he began to become more and more aware of plastic washing up onshore. Deep down, Rob knew there must be a way to endlessly recycle plastic and keep it out of the ocean. And from that simple idea, Oceanworks was born.
The process Rob and his partner devised to create recycled ocean plastic is truly inspiring. The plastic for each Oceanworks button is harvested from places like Haiti and Mexico, by locals who are paid a living wage for their efforts, thereby not only preventing plastic waste from entering the ocean but also combatting extreme poverty at the same time. For people living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a country still struggling to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, the chance to earn money by clearing out the plastic plaguing their neighborhoods and water supply is a double win.
If you look closely at any Oceanworks button you’ll find the material, year, and the coordinates where it was harvested, printed right into the plastic itself.
With his manufacturing process in place, Rob’s next goal was to find a market for ocean plastic. He’d gotten a lot of interest from various industries following a successful crowdfunding campaign, but he only wanted to work with companies that shared his mission of safeguarding oceans—which lead him to Outerknown. He reached out to our Chief Sustainability Officer Shelly Gottschamer through LinkedIn and the rest is history.
If you look closely at any Oceanworks button you’ll find the material, year, and the coordinates where it was harvested, printed right into the plastic itself. It’s another tiny detail that speaks volumes, reinforcing our commitment to the oceans and those that love it. Expect our future collaborations with Oceanworks to also make a big impact, one tiny detail at a time.