Ocean Friendly Design Forum

Designing out plastic oceans: Developing the pathway towards extending the life and value of plastic to stop millions of tons of plastic waste entering the sea.


Through an adventurous exploration of the challenge, collaborative development and implementation of design solutions the Ocean Friendly Design Forum raises awareness, shifts perspectives and challenges the current design thinking and practical production of materials and products that commonly end up in the ocean. 

Reducing the amount of plastic in the sea means redesigning complex supply chains and innovating new systems and materials. Such challenges, requiring long-term strategies, have to date proved a barrier to action. The forum engages in a cross–sector pragmatic and creative approach that moves from the traditional linear model of ‘take, make and dispose,’ to considering the entire lifecycle of materials and products. Inspired by physical journey to and through the heart of the problem an expert group from across the circular network (fig. 1) to include design and material experts, marine scientists, manufacturers and resource managers, brands and retailers, consumers, policy makers and government, investors and academics will investigate and develop the concept and practice of Ocean Friendly Design together. Reducing the amount of plastic in the sea is a business opportunity, an ecological imperative and a social, collaborative movement.


Plastic Ocean

The equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic is dumped into the sea every minute and in the business as usual case it is predicted there will be 1kg of plastic to every kg of fish in less than a decade. About 10% of all plastic created ends up in the sea. The amount of plastic produced rises daily as emerging markets expand and the production of plastic becomes cheaper. The majority of plastic in the sea originates from the land and comprises of single use packaging and everyday consumer products. Every item of plastic that has ever entered the ocean is still there, in some form, today. The United Nations highlights plastic marine pollution as a critical threat to the productivity and resilience of the seas. This is a clear and present, but yet insidious and largely invisible threat. Millions of sea creatures get entangled and die unnecessarily each year. Sea birds choke on the colourful bite size pieces of plastic that they mistake for food. As the material breaks down into dust sized particles they attract persistent organic pollutants, from pesticides to pharmaceuticals.  Filter feeding marine organisms from shellfish to cetaceans consume the toxic plastic particles. The toxicity accumulates and biomagnifies as it moves up the food chain. This toxicity has been cited to be carcinogenic and disrupts endocrine, immune and reproductive systems in fish species and human beings.

80% of a products environmental impact is locked in at the concept design stage
— The Design Council

Research published by The Design Council stated that about 80% of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the concept design stage. The Ocean Friendly Design Forum (OFDF) tackles the cause of the issue, stopping plastic entering the sea, whereas the majority of programmes to date focus on the effect, such as beach clean ups. OFDF will continue to investigate innovation gaps, practically test design solutions, and spotlight priorities for action. These will include the four stages of closing the loop and the invention of fit for purpose restorative materials. We will re-evaluate and progress the Ocean Friendly Design standards annually. 

Forum Members 

Members comprise of a representative mix of the skills and experience highlighted in The RSA, Great Recovery, ‘circular network’ (see fig. 1). This circular network considers all disciplines influencing or involved in the invention, production, use or disposal of a material that could end up in the ocean. All members will be selected to have the greatest potential influence in designing out marine plastics. 

Working across the network we will raise awareness of the issues and solutions for designing-out marine plastic pollution across previously unaware government, private sector and civil society groups through providing space, encouraging and fostering ideas and exploring new partnerships.

Figure 1. The RSA, Great Recovery, Circular Network

Figure 1. The RSA, Great Recovery, Circular Network