Biswadeep Ghosh was a stranger over the internet when he unknowingly helped forge the creation of Oceanbags. When they finally met in person, Mark interviewed Biswadeep in his Kolkata factory. In this outtake, they delve into the definition of Ocean Bound Plastics, the rigors of OBP certification, and the collaborative efforts of multiple organizations to create sustainable backpacks. The full transcript is below the video, with links to the referenced organization in the footnotes.
(Note: The video team did their best, but the sound quality is sometimes muffled because of the loud factory setting.)
Mark: We're so excited to be here in India and Kolkata, your hometown, and in the factory that we're hearing the sounds behind you. We're so grateful, to you and your entire team, and, in such a large way, you're the reason we have Oceanbags as a nonprofit foundation, because you introduced us to Ocean Bound Plastics.
Biswadeep: Thanks to you, Mark, and the whole team of Oceanbags to actually come over from Texas to meet us over here, which is fantastic. We started this business only in 2015 (1). Initially, we never had any factory. Initially, we were just doing trading, but then in the year 2017, I understand to get the quality up to the market, we have to have a factory because we had buyers from all over the world.
From the US, from Germany, from Japan, from Australia. So we decided to have a factory. And then, in 2021, we became the first Ocean Bound Plastic (2) certified backpack manufacturing company in this country. Okay. There's no one else in this country. I think there's no one else still now. So what is Ocean Bound Plastics?
To understand that, you need to understand that any bottles found within the range of the ocean, sea, beach, I mean within 20 kilometers, that's like what we call the Ocean Bound Plastic bottles.
We are actually basically three organizations tied up together. Okay. There's an organization based in the south of India (3) and they are collecting the plastic through rag pickers paying proper market standard wage to them.
And this plastic bottle is actually going to Surat, which is in the west of the country where it is getting recycled (4). We make it into polyester recycle fabric, then it is coming to us. We are making the bags out of it. So we are all tied up together. And remember, all the organizations inside this have OBP certification.
Okay, so that's Ocean Bound Plastic. So basically if you buy a backpack, I mean, your [Oceanbags] standard backpack would have at least from 20 to 40 one-liter plastic bottles. That is what is used for that backpack. So imagine someone buying a bag in America somewhere. Is actually cleaning 40 plastic bottles that never entered the ocean.
Biswadeep: [Mark agrees] Never entered the ocean, okay? And if it enters the ocean, it'll stay there for 200 years. So I'm sure if you do a bit of research on this, you'll understand what a big mess we are entering into. Yes. And if we do not take steps by 2050, it'll be a disaster
Mark: To be clear, in addition to many other positive aspects of buying an Oceanbag, which is sold by a nonprofit corporation - and we can deal with that later - the most direct impact, immediate impact, is that the bag was made of what would've been somewhere between 20 and 40 one-liter bottles going into the ocean.
Mark: And every one of our bags goes through a rigorous process to make sure that, this claim that we make is in fact true.
Mark: And so we join you three in being a fourth part, and that's the selling of what got collected on the beaches from up to 20 kilometers away.
And so we happily join, and we invite our customers to join in this effort as well. Because it's meaningful and it's rigorous, and, in the end, what the customer receives is a quality backpack that come with this benefit - at least this one benefit of [collecting] plastic bottles that never reach the ocean.
(1) Biswadeep is founder and CEO of MON Exports.
(2) Ocean Bound Plastics are defined and certified by Zero Plastic Oceans. Created in 2019, Zero Plastic Oceans is a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to addressing plastic pollution issues.
(3) BIswadeep is referring to Pastics for Change, where the OBP plastics are collected. Mission: Providing sustainable opportunities for waste collectors and investing in the development of the recycling economy of India.
(4) Alliance Fibres in Surat, Gujarat (INDIA) is the OBP certified recycling partner in the supply chain required to make products that can carry the Ocean Bound Plastics label.