Plastics: The Oceans & Beyond


July 8th marked the end of the adidas Runners month long Run for the Oceans campaign.  Run for the Oceans was a joint venture between adidas and Parley to raise awareness for Marine Plastic Pollution.  Over 900,000 runners worldwide ran over 7 million miles in support of this cause.  Adidas pledged to match $1 for every kilometer run for the first one million kilometers to support the Parley Ocean School youth education initiatives.  Last year adidas partnered with Parley, and has been utilizing Parley Ocean Plastic, a proprietary textile made from recycled plastic retrieved from our oceans, in a line of high performance foot wear.  The Primeknit upper on these sneakers is comprised of 95% Parley Ocean Plastic, so each pair prevents approximately 11 plastic bottles from potentially entering the oceans!

Just how polluted are the earth’s oceans?  Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.  When we see this depicted in pictures (see below) it catches our attention and concern, but it’s easy to push those images to the back of our minds as we go about our daily lives.  This is especially true for the majority of people who don’t live in close proximity to our coastlines.  However,  plastic pollution does have an effect on our everyday lives, no matter where we live. It effects both the environment we live in and our individual health. Below, I’ll connect the dots on how plastics can make their way from the ocean into our physical bodies. 


The world’s oceans contain five offshore plastic accumulation zones.  The largest lies in the Pacific between California and Hawaii, and is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  It covers an area of over 600,000 square miles and contains at least 78,000 tons of plastic trash.  The majority of the mass (92%) of the garbage patch is particles measuring larger than .5 cm, but over time these plastics will deteriorate into microplastics.  Microplastics are tiny particles that measure 5mm or less.  Microplastics have been discovered floating in the water surface layers, but also as far down as the ocean floor.  When the particles are this small they can be mistaken for food and ingested by marine animals.  Also, UV light and the salt in seawater cause these tiny particles of plastic to emit toxic chemicals like PCBs(polychlorinated biphenyls).  When these are ingested by marine species it can cause endocrine disruption.  Additionally, these chemicals can bioaccumulate in organisms as they move up the food chain, eventually showing up in the fish that we consume.  Microplastic particles have also been found in sea salt that is being sold for human consumption. 

Many chemicals in plastics are known to be endocrine disruptors, but what exactly does this mean?  Our endocrine system is crucial in growth and development, metabolism, regulating mood, reproductive processes and sexual function. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body's endocrine system. Some of these disruptors may block the effects of a hormone from certain receptors, while others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones.  When our system is thrown off balance it can cause detrimental reproductive, developmental, neurological, and immune effects.  According to the Lancet (a peer-reviewed Medical Journal), to date there have been no studies of the effects of microplastic consumption by humans.  However, it’s logical to assume that it is a major concern for our health.  In the U.S., 94 percent of tap water samples were found to contain plastic, and so far plastic pollution is showing no sign of slowing down (see figure below).


Having been part of the adidas family for 20 years now, I will admit my interest in this campaign is biased.  That said, I’m proud to work with a brand that combines sustainability and high performance.  This is the type of creative collaboration that we need to face the environmental challenges of the future.  Plastics pollution is an immediate and future threat to our environment and to our health, and the importance of spreading awareness on this matter transcends brand loyalty.

At the end of the day we’re all interconnected.

Here’s What You Can Do to Help:

  1. Bring reusable bags when shopping

  2. Bring your own mug to coffee shops

  3. Bring your own reusable bottle when exercising

  4. Skip the disposable straw

  5. Sort your recycling

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