Turning Oceanic Plastic Pollution into Something Good

By Taryn Engmark

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

March 01, 2022


Turning Oceanic Plastic Pollution into Something Good

Without plastics we wouldn’t have computers, televisions, smartphones, or even electronic components that are manufactured using resins of the material. And that’s just the technology sector.

With it, as of 2015, there were “5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic in our ocean and 46,000 pieces in every square mile of ocean” according to National Geographic. That amounts to 150 million metric tons of plastic circulating Earth’s marine environments, only a fraction of which is contained in places like the 1.8 trillion-piece Great Pacific Garbage Patch that’s bigger than the state of Texas.

Though conservationists have been preaching it for decades, the best way to combat the plastic pollution pandemic is the same it’s always been: recycle and avoid single-use plastics wherever possible. While we can’t remove all plastic from the ocean because most of it has already sunk to the sea floor, we can limit the estimated 8 million pieces of plastic that make their way there every single day.

But as defeatist as it may sound, how can tech-based industries that rely so heavily on plastic be expected to reduce their dependency on the material and remain powerful engines of the global economy?

A partnership between Microsoft and chemical manufacturers at SABIC may satisfy both objectives.

A Resin of Recyclables

The joint effort began as part of a Microsoft initiative to achieve zero waste by 2030, which included an effort to create resins using at least 10% recycled ocean plastics. After learning of the project, SABIC decided to assist.

Already a leader in the use of ocean-bound plastics, SABIC proceeded to source the materials. These were captured from oceans and waterways before being cleaned and processed into recyclable plastic resin pellets, which were then blended with other materials to create a XENOY resin.

The final, manufactured XENOY resin contained 20% recycled ocean plastics. And aside from exceeding Microsoft’s primary material composition goal, the project also consumed less energy and therefore emitted less CO2 than normal because the recycled materials used in the XENOY plastic blend required less processing that traditional materials.

The SABIC XENOY resin created for this project is available as part of the company’s TRUCIRCLE portfolio.

Bringing Eco-Friendly Tech Full Circle

But where did the SABIC resin end up?

Currently, it is being used in the exterior shell of Microsoft’s Ocean Plastic Mouse, which is sold in 100% recyclable packaging made from wood, natural sugarcane fibers, and most importantly, no plastic.

With this initiative, Microsoft and SABIC hope to not only showcase the possibility of using recycled materials in their technologies, but also set an example of what industry can achieve “when value chain partners use their knowledge and expertise and work together.”

To continue what SABIC calls a “circular economy for plastics” Microsoft launched a free mouse mail-in program so customers can recycle their old peripherals appropriately through contracted partners.

To learn more, visit www.sabic.com/en/news/30776-sabic-and-microsoft-collaborate-to-create-microsoft-s-first-product-made-with-recycled-ocean-plastic or watch the video below.