Courtesy Addy White
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I met Addy during the 2023 Miami International Boat Show, where she had set up a small table in the Suzuki Marine booth to display and sell her handmade necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets, each piece custom-crafted from multicolored bits of microplastic trash picked up from beaches near her Fort Lauderdale, Florida, home. Here’s what she had to say about her work.
What is your connection to the ocean?
Growing up, I was either sailing or working on my family’s oyster farm in Duxbury, Massachusetts, where I learned firsthand how the health of the ocean is connected to how we treat it. Oysters are amazing creatures—they are filter feeders and that’s how I first learned about microplastics.
What inspired you turn microplastics into jewelry?
I was the director of an environmental and marine-science kids’ camp. We would do beach clean-ups, and I would teach campers about microplastics and the dangers they pose to marine life. We talked a lot about repurposing and reusing things. We would bring the plastics we collected to art class and make things out of it. I would make things at home and bring them to show in class. During COVID, I jumped all in to see how much microplastic I could repurpose. I began making jewelry for friends and family to lift their spirits, and it took off from there.
What is the process for turning microplastics into jewelry?
The first step, of course, is walking the beach and picking up the microplastic. Every tiny piece that goes into my work is picked up by me or one of my friends. I focus on pieces smaller than a bottle cap, too small to be recycled. Then I carefully clean it and use a bio-based epoxy to hold the pieces together like glue. The result is a gemstone-like piece that always has different colors and designs. These can then be used to create different types of jewelry. Sometimes I’ll also integrate pieces of rope, netting and other materials I find on the beach.
How do you come up with ideas and designs?
I relied on people’s feedback in the beginning, and I still do. Mostly, I make things that I enjoy making. Since I make everything by hand, I believe the love comes through in my pieces. I name every piece after a place that I love where I’ve collected microplastics.
Is there a message behind your company Ocean Plastics?
My goal has always been to raise awareness about microplastics in our oceans and get people to think about all the little things they can do. I’d love to get more people involved in beach clean-ups. I have a program where people can send microplastic they collect to me. I send a prepaid, compostable mailer, they fill it, send it back, and I’ll make any piece they want and send it back free of charge as a thank you for cleaning the beach. I’d love to see more people take advantage of this.
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What’s your connection with Suzuki Marine?
Suzuki came up during a boat show and expressed a desire to work together, which makes sense given its Clean Ocean Project and the microplastic collection device on its engines. Owners of 115 and 140 horsepower models with these filters can take advantage of a new program we’re launching to turn engine-collected plastics into Ocean Plastics originals. When they do a routine service, I’ll send an envelope that they can use to send their collected microplastic to me so I can turn into free custom jewelry. It’s going to be amazing! Imagine somebody saying to a Suzuki owner, “that’s a cool bracelet.” And they get to tell them it’s made from microplastic collected while driving their boat around.
How can people learn more and check out your jewelry?
They can visit the Ocean Plastics website at oceanplasticsjewelry.com.