Project Blu will launch its new ‘ghost fishing net’ collection made of recycled gear in September 2020. The UK based business with manufacturing facilities in Tuscany, Italy, wants to use discarded nets to make sustainable design accessories for pets.
Behind the initiative, there is the goal to solve two issues at the same time: harmful materials in the oceans and harmful materials in pet owners’ houses.
“We are on a mission to prove sustainability and style can work in harmony,” they state. “We call it Eco-Chic.”
Before Project Blu was formed, its founder Geryn Evans had been designing and manufacturing pet products for over four years. The original brand (Ralph & Co) was created as a disruptive concept brand that offered high quality, scalable and affordable designs. It offered dog beds, collars, leashes and toys all made in Italy and available in retailers like John Lewis and Joules.
During this time, he realized that the market was dominated by mass produced, unsustainable and low quality articles. For instance, the production and recycling of virgin polyester as well as traditional leather used for these articles can have a strong impact on the environment.
“There has been very little eco-friendly innovation in this category,” Evans says. “It became quite clear that pet accessories had a significant negative impact on our planet.”
It was just a matter of finding the right materials to substitute the wrong ones.
The brand, launched in May 2019, initially produced beds, collar and leads by converting ocean-bound plastic and recycled clothing. Since then, other product innovations like recycled leather were introduced. In the first 12 months, they sold over 87,000 products made from over 6 million plastic bottles.
Yet, bottles are only part of the waste problem. It is estimated that over 640,000 tons of fishing gear is lost or discarded in the oceans every year, not really dissolving for centuries and so causing detrimental problems to the marine life that gets caught in.
The fishing net solution was inspired by the work of Bureo, a brand that converts fishing nets into skateboards and that is now working closely with Patagonia to expand the offering. After researching the production methods required and identifying a source of fishing nets in Europe, the idea started to become a reality.
“Project Blu was born from a desire to drive positive change within the pet industry and tackle these harmful issues,” Evans says. “ It is our mission to prove that brands can be sustainable, stylish and profitable.”
They partnered with the Danish recycling company Plastix Global to convert nets into a number of ‘plastic style’ pet products like feeding bowls and litter trays.
After they finalized the designs and samples, Project Blu analyzed if the products were feasible in terms of affordable, competitiveness along the supply chain, scalability and secondary environmental impacts.
The production process starts by sourcing fishing nets, trawls and ropes from a number of ports, net makers and plastics collectors globally. The materials are sorted, divided into the different types of plastics and colors, shredded, washed, separated and converted into pellets. Project Blu then combines these pellets with post-consumer plastic waste and injection mould the materials to convert the end product.
Evans says that “Project Blu is on a mission to revolutionize the pet accessories market” and he adds: “Consumer appetite to our products has been overwhelmingly positive but the truth is, we are only just getting started.”
“Our ambition is to offer a full range of sustainable pet products that can compete in terms of price, placement and style on a global scale. Our main focus has been on the European market but we aim to prioritize direct-to-consumer channels and expand into North America in September, and other key pet markets including Brazil, Japan, South Korea and Australia in 2021.”
Project Blu received investment from Mars, R/GA and Michelson Found Animals. They would like to expand into new markets, for example home furnishings, next year.