Electrolux is going to create vacuum cleaners from plastic harvested from polluted oceans. The company just launched its “Vac from the sea” initiative to get plastic waste out of the world’s oceans and into home appliances made of recycled plastic. There are plastic islands, some several times the size of the state of Texas, floating in the world’s oceans. Yet on land, stocks of recycled plastic are much too small to feed production of sustainable plastic products. Electrolux intends to gather plastic from the oceans and turn it into a number of vacuum cleaners.
The aim of “Vac from the sea” is twofold, to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution and to raise awareness on the scarcity of recycled plastics needed for making sustainable home appliances.
“We struggle to get hold of enough recycled plastics to meet the demand for our sustainable vacuum cleaners,” says Cecilia Nord, Vice President, Floor Care Environmental and Sustainability Affairs, Electrolux.
Diving, fishing and scavenging for plastics
The plan is to make a limited number of vacuum cleaners from plastic debris harvested from the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the Mediterranean, Baltic and North Seas. The techniques for harvesting the plastic will vary depending on the location – from diving after it to scooping it up from the waves. “We will work with volunteers and experts that live close or work with this problem.” says Nord.
Out of the ocean – and into the cycle
More recycling directly translates into more sustainable appliances and homes, according to Jonas Magnusson, Business Segment Manager within Electrolux Floor Care. “Our engineers have managed to get our green range vacuum cleaners up to 70% recycled plastic, but our ultimate vision is of course 100%, and for all ranges.”
The main barrier to using more recycled plastic in home appliances is the scarce and uncertain supply of recycled raw material. Much research and progress is currently being done by the recycling industry. However, to fix the imbalance in supply and demand and get the cycle working properly, overall consumer perception must change. “The ‘Vac from the sea’ project aims to do just that – educate consumers,” says Nord. “This issue is much too important to leave to politicians. Companies, consumers and politicians are equally accountable for the situation.”