The story of Ogoori began with an impromptu clean-up of plastics along the shores of Randaberg near Stavanger during the spring of 2018. Lars Urheim, CEO of furniture company Ope and his colleagues, invited their friends and family to collect plastics under event, ‘Keep Norway Beautiful’ (Hold Norge Rent). They wanted to do their part by offsetting their own plastic footprint.
NRK journalist, Thomas Ystrøm, came to cover their clean-up and asked Urheim if they were going to use the marine plastics for their products. At that time, ideas were generated by Urheim on how marine plastic can be used in products. However, there was no system in place to allow it to happen on an industrial level. Nonetheless, it gradually got the ball rolling. IVAR is responsible for handling waste in some municipalities and was building a recycling plant in the area. IVAR was open for collaboration with Ope, and a partnership ensued.
A month later, a trade fair in New York, brought Jan Christian, CEO of Vestre, another Norwegian furniture company, Pål Lunder from Fjordfiesta, and Lars Urheim together. A conversation at a NYC venue kicked off another partnership.
Near the end of 2018, IVAR, Vestre and Ope jointly established the project, ‘From Beach To Boardroom’ to come up with concrete solutions for how to use the ocean plastics, considered waste across the board, in a way that would give it new value. The purpose of the project will take plastic that has gone astray out of nature and stored into Norwegian design objects meant for commercial buildings and public spaces. This value chain will be established to close the loop so that plastic can be stopped from polluting the environment ever again.
The Norwegian Retailers Environment Fund (HMF) funded ‘From Beach To Boardroom’ with NOK 2 million in 2019. In addition, through a preliminary project in 2018/2019, the research institute SINTEF verified for the parties and then partner Fjord Fiesta, that marine plastic is functionally capable for use in products. The collaboration now also includes the blockchain company Empower.
Empower developed a system by which plastic can assume value through tokenisation and registry on the blockchain, exchangeable for dollars. Thus, places with no current waste management system can rid themselves of plastics, and those who clean up can make money on it.
Empower has developed a blockchain-based system for documenting the origin of plastic. In this way, precision and trust are attained in where the plastic was collected from. This safeguards the project’s purpose and ensures that it is ownerless marine plastic that is being included in the new value chain.
Environmental activist, Rune Gaasø also came into the project after Urheim collected plastic that was cleaned up on Ulvøya in Øygarden Kommune, and which was stored in Gaasø's garage temporarily. Gaasø was not at home at the time, but his wife was. On the way back to Stavanger, Urheim phoned Gaasø up and started a conversation with him about the state of the world, and still, that conversation goes on today. Gaasø has an established position in the beach cleaning community.
Subsequently in early 2020, the project ‘From Beach To Boardroom’ became a fully-fledged company called “Ogoori”. Ope and Vestre, together with Environmentalist Rune Gaasø, founded the company Ogoori with the goal to upcycle 500-1000 metric tons of ocean plastic to new raw materials in 2020 alone.
Ogoori will offer traceable plastic raw materials collected from the ocean with a guarantee of origin. A large fraction of the plastic is collected by volunteers from all over the world, through the non-profit organisation, In The Same Boat, on their cleanups along the Norwegian coastline. The 100% ownerless marine plastic will continued be tracked through blockchain technology from technology partner Empower.
The Ogoori company name draws inspiration from Captain Oguri Jūkichi who returned to Japan as a hero, having been lost at sea longer than anyone else in history. Just as he returned to Japan as a hero, the reclaimed plastic that we’ve considered valueless should be treasured for its return from nature. Through Ogoori, the lost plastic will find new value through technology, storytelling and circular economy. All of Ogoori’s profits will be recycled into more clean-up operations – as long as there is plastic to be found in the ocean.
Read more: Ope To Grow With Negative Footprint
The plastic that was pulled from nature piece by piece, by both volunteer and professional shore cleaners, through enormous communal efforts, is done so that it will no longer litter, pollute, be eaten, or break down into microplastics in the future. This kind of plastic carries within it something that neither new plastic nor recycled household or industrial plastic has: it carries a powerful story.
“Our customers can help make this story a reality, by utilizing the plastic and benefiting from its inherent value through quality product and service solutions,” said Lars Urheim, the driving force behind Ogoori and Ope’s CEO.
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