Q&A with Ocean Bottle Co-Founder, Will Pearson.
Will’s interest lies at the intersection of entrepreneurship, social impact, and environmental conservation. After completing his undergraduate degree in engineering, Will spent a year working at sea in the Indian Ocean, where he saw first hand the current state of pollution in the world’s oceans. Will is no stranger to working in sustainability-focused businesses, with experience in product development, eco products and renewable energy, including the development of an atomically thin solar cell for his engineering thesis. At the age of 25, he was recently awarded Forbes 30 under 30 and selected as one of Norway’s top 10 leaders under 30 for his work pursuing the sustainable development goals
Why did you decide to form and launch Ocean Bottle?
Ocean Bottle exists to give anyone that gives a damn about the planet a chance to take action. We launched in 2019 after I spent a year working as a deckhand, encountering ‘Rubbish Island’, Thilafushi in the Maldives. On this island, plastic from resorts is burnt and then left to drift out into the ocean. It was after this encounter that I began to take action, researching further into the problem and discovering that 22 million kgs of plastic pours into the ocean on a daily basis (and this number is expected to have increased by now). By 2030 ocean plastic is expected to double in weight.
The good news is that there are solutions out there that can turn the tap off this plastic waste before it enters the ocean. During my research, I came across Plastic Bank who were in the process of setting up recycling infrastructure in some of the worst-hit places, such as Haiti, Philippines & Indonesia. I then realised that this was a great solution and that we should connect people all over the world to it, which is where Ocean Bottle came in.
For anyone who might not know, what you do and how you operate?
We’re an impact company first, and a reusable bottle company second. We create award winning reusable ocean impact products that fund the collection of 1000 plastic bottles in weight through every sale. Together with our partner, Plastic Bank, these funds go to places with high levels of mismanaged plastic waste. Locals can then exchange plastic they collect for the things they need, such as money, healthcare, tuition or goods. Plastic Bank’s whole operation is powered by IBM blockchain, which allows impact to be traced back to the people and places where plastic has been collected.
What are you hoping to achieve with Ocean Bottle?
To collect enough plastic that we go out of business! All jokes aside, we want to make as much impact as possible. By 2025 we aim to collect 80 million kgs of plastic which is equivalent to 7 billion plastic bottles, stopping this from ever entering our ocean.
We measure the impact we create against four main pillars: ocean health, social good, climate action and closing the loop. For ocean health, plastic pollution is causing huge damage to the marine ecosystem, food chain and consequently our own health. So whether we’re preventing plastic from entering the ocean or investing in mangrove restoration it's here the main part of our efforts are focused. With social good, we monitor how many collectors we have supported and through which communities. We will always ensure that they’re being paid a better wage than the average, they have increased opportunity and that their families are supported. For climate action, we track all our carbon footprint across the supply chain, minimise this through a variety of activities and new commitments and also offset all operations and fulfilment through mangrove planting projects. Finally, closing the loop is very important to us. Whether its ensuring our products last a lifetime, can be repaired or recycled at end of life, are made from as much recycled content as is possible or helping people make the change from single-use water bottles to reusables.
What does it mean to you to be working alongside Generous APE?
Working with Generous Ape is an exciting project. With the online market being ever dominated by Amazon and mass manufactured spreadsheet built products, Generous Ape provides a much needed sustainability focused alternative.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
Our product, impact, brand and community wouldn’t exist without such a great team and great supporters. We are perhaps proudest of the impact we generated from our first year, giving almost 17% of revenue to plastic collection and funding the collection of 1,139,949kgs of ocean bound plastic to date.
What do you hope to achieve over the next 12 months?
We’ve got some lofty goals to reach during 2021, and the whole team is already getting stuck in! One of the main ones being to fund the collection of over 300,000,000 plastic bottles in weight and further support the livelihoods of collectors in coastal communities. We’ll also be switching to 90% recycled stainless steel in our product which would put us at 69% recycled material. We also want to triple the donations to campaigns, NGOs and activists as equal to our revenue predictions. Finally, we will also be growing the OB team with some really exciting roles, one of them being the Head of Platform, which will launch and develop the world’s first impact platform and app for ocean health. Thanks!