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Words: Laura Tooth, Marketing Assistant

As a socially conscientious designer belonging to a now vulnerable world, I think it is important to understand where our resources come from and how to dispose of them properly. After graduating in Graphic Design last year, I spent the summer on a mission to ‘give something back’ before beginning my career. During my time, I travelled to Bali and volunteered at the Bali Wildlife Rescue Centre and a local turtle sanctuary. In January 2019, I began working at NT Labs as a Marketing Assistant, developing the brand and being responsible for the design of both digital and in-store promotion.


The purpose of this article is to outline the damaging effects of plastic pollution and its stance on the aquatic industry. The term ‘plastic pollution’ may be a familiar one, but what does it really mean and what is its severity? Plastic pollution is the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the Earth's environment that adversely affects wildlife, habitats, and humans. The severity of plastic pollution is only set to increase unless changes are made and action is taken now. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year, this figure being on top of the 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments.


Having seen the effects of plastic pollution first hand, it is truly devastating. When volunteering in Bali, the eggs of thousands of turtles are collected and brought to the sanctuary to be nurtured until they are strong enough to be released and make their journey into the ocean. Whilst there, the activity that shocked me the most was cleaning the beaches. A beautiful idyllic beach in Bali covered in the remnants of toys, packaging and various other plastic items is not the first thing that springs to mind. This is the harsh reality, of what the beaches all around the world have become and soon, no one will be able to enjoy them without being disturbed by plastic whether it is in the ocean or washed up on the shore.


Plastic pollution is taking effect all over the globe, so much so that 100,000 marine mammals and turtles along with 1 million sea birds are killed by plastic pollution annually. Under the surface, coral reefs are being destroyed due to disease caused by plastic contamination. Scientists carried out a 4-year study and examined 125,000 corals across the Asia-Pacific region, home to half the world’s reefs. Their findings showed that 89% of the corals fouled by plastic were suffering with disease where as only 4% of corals were diseased in plastic-free reefs. The researchers also estimated that the plastic pollution tarnishing coral reefs in Asia-Pacific would soar by 40% by 2025 to 16bn pieces, unless action is taken. The true number is likely to be higher, as China and Singapore were not included in the analysis. For a company in the ornamental aquatic sector, these statistics are frightening.


The world of fishkeeping is a controversial one, although most fish are now bred in captivity, the method of how they have been delivered to the fish keeper, as a manufacturing company, is unfortunately out of our hands. The whole purpose of fishkeeping is just that, to keep the fish alive and thriving. Our mission at NT Labs is to manufacture products that improve the health and wellbeing of fish to ensure they are being kept safely and responsibly.


There are benefits to fishkeeping, especially when considering the livelihood of the millions of people involved. Wild caught ornamental fish are most often caught in coastal and riverine communities where opportunities to earn a living are limited. This is where fishkeeping is able to build opportunities, not only from the fishermen themselves, but the supplier of diving and fishing equipment, the transportation of the livestock and the keeper of the livestock at its final destination. If wild caught fishkeeping didn’t exist, alternative livelihoods would be made, these being less economically productive, sustainable and potentially environmentally damaging. Alternative livelihoods include fishing for livestock caught for food or bait, logging causing deforestation and coral mining. From their ‘Wild caught ornamental fish’ report, OATA state that “the marine industry represents at most 0.0001% of the fish caught from the sea globally” and “the collection of fish destined for aquariums has never caused a species to become extinct in the wild.”


At NT Labs, we have recently performed a sustainability audit on all of our packaging materials. We are committed to continue making improvements and to put in measures to ensure that our products and processes are sustainable. All of our cartons are widely recyclable as well as the plastic bottles we use providing the labels and the child resistant closures are removed first. PET plastic bottles are collected by 92% of councils in the UK and can be reused in the format of fabrics and new food packaging. Whereas PP plastics are beginning to be more accepted for household collections. We highly recommend that you check with your local authorities about your household collection policies before recycling and wash out the bottles thoroughly to remove any remaining product.


There are many other measures we as a company put in place to reduce our carbon footprint. All of the paper used on site and at our office is FSC paper meaning that the trees that have been harvested are replaced or allowed to regenerate naturally. We reuse all of the cardboard we can, and if not, it’s all recycled and picked up weekly. Alongside this, we have significantly reduced the amount of plastic shrink-wrap we use to secure our products and also ship in larger standard quantities to our consumers meaning less packaging materials are used as well as less frequent transportation. When we can we use UK suppliers, to again reduce our carbon footprint, whilst also supporting local businesses.


Furthermore, the foods we manufacturer are palm oil free and have been certified by the Marine Ingredients Organisation (IFFO). IFFO is a respected, constructive and proactive partner representing members to raise standards of responsibility and nutrition in the global marine ingredients industry. They embrace the sustainable utilisation of valuable fish resources and enhance the responsible supply of fishmeal and fish oil.


There is no doubt a lot of damage has already been made however by taking these measures, together we are minimizing the risk of materials being dumped on landfill and inevitably making their way into the ocean.


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