Member Spotlight: Kate McLeod, Notpla, Sea Hugger, Sungai Watch

Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some influential change-makers. This month, we highlight four members who are eliminating plastic and chemicals from personal care products, creating regenerative seaweed-based plastic alternatives, inspiring plastic-free actions for our oceans, and stemming the tide of plastic pollution flowing through rivers.

Kate McLeod

Kate McLeod is a leader in the beauty industry that is setting the tone for a new era of how personal care products are made and packaged. To address the almost 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic created annually to contain personal care products, founders Kate McLeod and Nichola Gray have made a commitment to plastic-free packaging and more responsible business practices. By removing water from their formulas, Kate McLeod has created innovative “stones” which are moisturizer bars in solid form, enabling use with cotton cloths and storage in bamboo containers that are both reusable and zero waste. Personal care formulations in solid form prevent the need for plastic tubes and thus prevent pollution, and Kate McLeod is leading by example in this area.

Kate McLeod’s impressive and exemplary sustainability efforts have led them to become the first plastic-free bodycare brand in Sephora. In addition to being zero waste, Climate Neutral Certified, and members of 1% for the Planet, Kate McLeod is equally as dedicated to human health and wellbeing. Their solid stones, which now include facial moisturizers and bath oils, are created with simple ingredients from local bakers and chefs, primarily from cocoa butter. They are designed to intensely nourish the skin without preservatives, synthetics, or toxic fragrances, earning them a MADE SAFE certification for uncompromised quality. The founders also believe that intentional moments of care and connection can be powerful tools for mental wellness, which is why they are actively engaged in mental health awareness and advocacy campaigns.

The company just launched a new Summer Collection, which includes two new limited edition Body Stone scent blends: Coastal Gardenia and Citrus Grove, as well as their best-selling Dusk Stone natural insect repellent and lotion bar (which frequently sells out). Their Forest Stone is an Allure Readers’ Choice Award winner and The Pebble, solid bath and shower oil, is a winner of an Allure Best of Beauty Award.

Notpla

Notpla is “not PLA,” it’s seaweed. Notpla is a leader in regenerative material applications, taking the world by storm and proving that convenience doesn’t have to be synonymous with plastic pollution. The Earthshot Prize-winning company creates seaweed-based alternatives to single-use plastics packaging. Their growing collection of solutions provides replacements for many everyday purposes that are typically dominated by plastic, including seaweed-coatings for single-use food packaging; edible energy pods; paper; bath, food, and laundry sachets, and rigid cutlery.

By harnessing the regenerative qualities of seaweed, Notpla’s family of packaging products are made from natural polymers that do not require any chemical modification, making them home compostable and biodegradable in marine environments. In fact, Notpla’s packaging has been recognized as the first and only material to be plastic free under the European Single-use Plastics Directive, setting a new standard in sustainable packaging. This means that their products will be exempt from any upcoming bans on disposable plastic food packaging in any European country. 

As leaders in the zero-waste packaging space, Notpla helped co-create and facilitate the Natural Polymers Group, a coalition of seven material innovators to influence progressive policy to advance natural packaging solutions on a global scale. In their largest partnership to date, they’ve teamed up with Levy UK + Ireland to provide 75 million seaweed-based food boxes to over 50 iconic stadiums and venues over the next three years, significantly reducing plastic waste in sports and entertainment. In addition to key partnerships to scale their solutions, Notpla is continually evolving their food packaging range to meet the market’s demand for natural and transparent products, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with regenerative materials. 

Don’t miss Hoa Doan, Notpla’s Head of Impact and Sustainability, speaking as a panelist on our July 18 webinar, “Designing a Plastic-Free Future with Regenerative Materials.” Feel free to also view their 2023 Impact Report and come to the webinar with your questions.

Sea Hugger

Sea Hugger is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and healing the marine environment from plastic pollution through action and education focused on driving systemic change that addresses root causes. They are on a mission to educate the public to reduce society’s plastic dependency, while focusing on protecting the marine environment, ensuring the intrinsic rights of aquatic life, and helping to create sustainable communities that are no longer affected by plastic pollution. 

Sea Hugger has blossomed into a force for change, implementing various initiatives to combat plastic pollution. From innovative programs like a reusable takeout container program for restaurants to engaging beach cleanups, Sea Hugger Founder Shell Cleave and her team have empowered communities to take ownership of their environmental impact. To help educate and inspire youth, they also host a number of educational resources on their website for interactive at-home learning. Shell believes that young minds are nurtured to become stewards of the sea, and we have an opportunity to foster a deep connection to nature through exploration and play.

To date, Sea Hugger and its volunteers have collected 171k lbs of pollution and 80 lbs of cigarette butts, taught almost 1,000 people about reusables, employed thousands of volunteers, and awarded $37,500 in microgrants to implement plastic pollution solutions in underserved communities in Mexico and South Africa.

Looking ahead, Sea Hugger envisions a future where the transition to a circular, plastic-free lifestyle is the norm, preserving our oceans and planet for generations to come. With ambitious plans to expand their reach and amplify their message, Shell and her team are determined to make waves in the fight against plastic pollution. Visit their site to learn more about their work.

Sungai Watch

Sungai Watch is a family-run nonprofit that was started in Bali, Indonesia, by three siblings who witnessed their breathtakingly beautiful and culturally rich island being ravaged by plastic pollution. From plastic water bottles to tiny plastic sachets of food, candies, and shampoo, Indonesia produces a staggering 3.2 million tons of plastic pollution per year from an influx of cheap goods in single-use plastic packaging, primarily from corporations in western countries. While upstream interventions are critical to prevent plastic pollution in the long-term, groups like Sungai Watch are addressing the urgent need to minimize leakage from the heaviest-polluted rivers.  

Founders and siblings Gary, Kelly, and Sam Bencheghib now lead a large-scale effort to prevent pollution from entering our shared oceans, raise awareness and empower local communities, collect key data for policymakers, and ultimately, create systems change. Impressively, in just three years, they have installed over 270 flow barriers to catch plastic pollution in rivers, initiated over 1,000 cleanups, collected 2 million kilograms (more than 4.4 million pounds) of plastic pollution, and deployed a team of 119 local community members to help run operations. Last year, they conducted a brand audit on 537,189 pieces of plastic packaging, doubling the amount from 2022, which provides important data to hold manufacturers and government accountable for their products. 

PPC’s Coalition Program Manager, Aidan Maguire, traveled to Sungai Watch’s Beraban sorting facility earlier this year and met with Nyoman “Pakman” Muditha, a local leader and a member of Sungai’s Management Team. In addition to generously showing us facility operations, Pakman shared stories about the historical context behind Bali culture and the introduction of plastic. What daily offerings used to be wrapped in biodegradable, nontoxic banana leaves are now snacks and candy wrapped in single-use plastic packaging that covers the streets, rivers, jungles, and rice fields by the billions. The last 50 years of surging global plastic use, Pakman explained, has created a social and environmental catastrophe that Indonesian residents have had to endure, but had no part in creating—as much plastic pollution in Indonesia is shipped and dumped there from overseas. This is a tragic story of plastic’s rise as the most ubiquitous and polluting material on Earth and waste colonialism caused by the global trade in trash—and is similarly felt by people living in underserved island nations and coastal communities across the world.

Sungai Watch’s next big project is to expand their work to the region of Jakarta, where they are working to install 100 trash barriers to stop 3 million kilograms (more than 6.6 million pounds) of plastic pollution over two years. Check out Sungai Watch’s 2023 Impact Report here and read more about their work in other prominent news media, such as this Guardian article.

Does your business or organization align with our mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts? Apply to join our global movement.

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