The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
February 26, 2013

Turtleback Listens! Company to Make Product That Degrades in Sea Water.

Turtleback-cup-holder-02Hey, remember my rant last spring about the plastic Turtleback cup holder meant to be used at the beach? And how I thought it was so ironic to name a product for a sea animal that is routinely harmed by ocean plastic pollution? A bunch of green bloggers created quite a stir on Turtleback’s Facebook page back then, and after initially being taken aback by it all, the owner, Ryan Housley, listened.  In fact, he had an open mind from the very start.

Switching to Biodegradable Material

Yesterday, Ryan emailed me a link to the company’s new Kickstarter campaign. The campaign is to fund the development of Turtleback 2.0, a version made from biodegradable plastic (Mirel), a plant-based plastic that is certified to not only biodegrade on land but also in sea water. In fact, it is the only bio-plastic certified to break down in the ocean, as far as I know, and it has also been tested by the folks at the Algalita Marine Research Institute, whose mission is to solve the plastic pollution problem.

Why does the company need a Kickstarter to make the change? For one thing, Mirel is freaking expensive at this point. It’s not cheap like fossil-based plastic because there is not yet the demand for it.  What’s more, the new Turtleback will be manufactured in the United States instead of China.

Keeping It Real

While I think switching to bio-based, biodegradable materials is a great step, I want to encourage Turtlebacks to change their advertising images.  I am still seeing that ubiquitous red solo cup (which is made from polystyrene) in many of their images, as well as disposable plastic bottles and other non-biodegradable plastics.  Wouldn’t the Turtleback cup holder look great holding a stainless cup or water bottle?

How about something like this?



Please Show Your Support

When companies listen and take action, it’s important for us to show our support.  Here are some things you can do:

1) Contribute to the Kickstarter campaign

2) Leave a thank you comment on Turtleback’s Facebook page

3) Forward the Kickstarter page to your friends / post on Facebook / Tweet

4) Give a helpful suggestion — ask Turtleback to change its marketing materials to show reusable cups and bottles instead of disposable plastic.


45 Responses to “Turtleback Listens! Company to Make Product That Degrades in Sea Water.”

  1. AlexFranco says:

    I visit beaches all over the world and constantly find pieces of beach toys.  Not to take the fun out of beaches for kids, but lets consider playing with what nature gave us and educate our kids on playing with nature and just enjoying the sand and water and all the little shells and creatures without all the plastic pails, shovels and toys – at least these should be made mandatory bio-degradable, just like no one wants BPA in baby bottles, we should take the same consideration for our oceans’ sea life as no one surely wants to ingest BPA in their seafood dinner!

  2. AlexFranco says:

    We can all avoid the entire (bio)plastic by just putting our cups/bottles in the sand as a holder – the way nature intended and not promote or use any “cup holder”  – is it really necessary to begin with?  The sand acts as a natural insulator keeping your drinks cold (or warm) , it’s free and is 100% pollution free.  Lets solve this issue easily by not being consumers of wasteful items in the first place.

  3. Anne says:

    Yes.  Why does no-one ever say, “Go without”?  Why isn’t that a/the solution?  It’s just, “How can I still have as much crap?”  Ridiculous!

  4. girloffthegrid says:

    Well, it’s nice that he listened but plastic is still plastic, when it bio degrades sea creatures still mistake it for food. :(

    • BethTerry says:

      girloffthegrid Yep.  You are right.  But it’s a step in the right direction.  Instead of plastic that lasts forever in the ocean, this is plastic that will last a few years and then completely biodegrade.  Yes, it will still harm sea animals, but not as many and for not as long.  The point of this post was not to promote this product but to thank a company that was making a worse product for listening and taking a step forward.

  5. Beth Terry says:

    South Florida Green News, what is it that makes you suspicious? Are you in doubt that it will biodegrade or something else? It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than fossil-based plastic, right? And it’s not a single-use disposable item.

  6. South Florida Green News says:

    But, why am I suspect still?

  7. Judithl says:

    Oh good grief!
    What did people do 60 years ago?
    Made a bit of an impression in the sand and either just set the item in it, or pressed/screwed the item deeper in.
    Why can’t y’all still do that?
    First world “problems” and “solutions” are what is destroying this planet!

    • BethTerry says:

      @Judithl I agree with you that this product may not be necessary.  But they are very popular.  So if we are going to have them, then lets applaud the owner for redesigning them to biodegrade.

  8. SarahLindholm says:

    Donated on Kickstarter, thanks!

  9. awilkins says:

    So Beth,
    When are you going to stop blogging? Because surely you’d only want to use a computer that has its casing made out of bio-degradable plastic.
    Wouldn’t you?

    • BethTerry says:

      @awilkins Hi.  Welcome to this site.  Please check out #68 and #69 in my Plastic-Free Guide ( to understand how it is I can use computers and other plastic items.  This project is not about refusing to ever touch plastic, but to try to live without acquiring new plastic  – See more at:

      • awilkins says:

        @BethTerry I read nos 68 and 69. You’re logical weakness astounds me. If everybody stopped buying new technology and kept buying secondhand items, such as old laptops and monitors, we’d end up in a vicious spiral of a stagnant lack of technological development and any technology we do try to hold onto will eventually break and become unusable. If you follow this through to it’s logical conclusion, we’ll end up with nothing, surrounded by broken computers, fridges, and televisions. We won’t be able to communicate effectively, keep food fresh, or watch the news. In other words, we’ll be thrust back to the 19th Century. That’s not somewhere I want to be.

        • The axman says:

          @awilkins  @BethTerry Again awilkins, its about encouraging manufacturers to research and find suitable alternatives to the current, poison leeching products they are supplying us with, at the moment. Imagine a modern, sophisticated high speed, fancy laptop that can do anything that the most modern plastic laptops can do, but made out of non poisonous, bio degradable material that won’t still be laying around the place in a thousand years. By putting pressure on manufacturers by not buying their products when possible and telling them why you are not buying their products, will eventually (if enough of us do it) force them to seek out suitable alternative measures.

        • BethTerry says:

          @awilkins If we learn to fix things when they break and use our ingenuity to create products that are meant to last and can be repaired rather than replaced, then we will end up with working technology and far fewer broken computers, fridges, and televisions than we currently have.  Don’t think we are surrounded by piles of obsolete technology already?  That is because we ship most of our e-waste overseas, where it piles up and leaches toxic chemicals in third world countries.  It’s a big problem created by planned obsolescence.  Take a look:

          When you say “we” will be thrust back into the 19th century, which “we” are you talking about?  Because the majority of the people on this planet are far below U.S. standards.   Those are the people who must deal with the waste “we” generate.I believe we can use our creativity and intelligence to create products that are useful, non-toxic, and meant to last.  Products that can be easily upgraded.  Fewer resources are required to add memory or upgrade software than to trash and replace an entire machine.  But that is what many of us are currently forced to do because of the way machines are currently designed.  
          We live on a finite planet.  Endless growth is unsustainable.

    • The axman says:

      @awilkins Dont mock her awilkins, She may be saving your life!

      • awilkins says:

        @The axman  @awilkins I hope to hell you’re being sarcastic. If not, why do you think someone refusing to drink from a plastic bottle is going to save my life?
        Personally, whenever I go scuba diving, I’ve always found that the parts made out of plastic do a really good job of saving my life ;)
        You might not want to admit it, but plastic has liberated us. Our technology has come on leaps and bounds since we could make things out of plastic – have you ever seem a computer made out of just metal and wood? No, thought not.

        • The axman says:

          @awilkins Yes, we are very clever, arn’t we. We have made so many wonderful things without considering the long term ramifications that they have on this earth. It is not our earth, what right do we have to ruin it. Without people like Beth creating awareness and encouraging other people to reduce the amount of plastic they use, it will be stuffed before you get old. It’s also about encouraging manufacturers to find and research alternative, eco friendly materials. If we don’t demand it, they won’t do it. If every body out there has the same philosophy as you, that wonderful liberator, Plastic will be around on this earth after the human race and most other life, is long gone!

        • awilkins says:

          @The axman @awilkins
          ” If every body out there has the same philosophy as you, that wonderful liberator, Plastic will be around on this earth after the human race and most other life, is long gone!”
          You want to get rid of plastic? No problem – just burn it in incinerators to generate energy in industrial scale power plants.
          However, I suppose that solution is not ‘green’ enough for you, and doesn’t involve people depriving themselves of a modern-day material so that you can feel all warm and fuzzy about us all going ‘back to the garden’

        • The axman says:

          @awilkins  @The Have you ever heard the phrase “kicking a dead horse”?

        • awilkins says:

          @The axman @The
          Have you ever heard of the sport “Winding Up A Greenie Liberal”? If you haven’t before, you might now have just realised that I’ve enjoyed spending the last few days irritating the pants off you, as you got more and more screechy. Why are you greens such easy targets?
          Right, I’ll stop playing with you now: I’m off to go and enjoy my comfortable life, supported by the energy and products that fossil fuels have given me.
          NB Don’t forget that the Earth hasn’t warmed for the past 17 years – so we’ve got nothing to worry about.

        • The axman says:

          @awilkins  @The  @The Like I said. Kicking a dead horse and going nowhere!

        • BethTerry says:

          @The axman  @awilkins  I haven’t jumped into this fray because I’ve been sick with flu and now am out of town giving presentations on plastic-free living.  I would just remind you all to please keep it civil and not to attack each other directly.  Exchanging differing points of view is fine.  I don’t censor the comments on this blog unless they become too snarky (a little snark is okay) and mean.

        • blade says:

          You actually spent a whole week on this blog, reading (hence you can read!) and mocking around – that’s a lot of energy spent, your contribution being ABSOLUT ZERO. you’re the perfect example of a total waste of resources (if you get my point)!

        • razor_blade says:

          You actually spent a whole week on this blog, reading (hence you can read!) and mocking around – that’s a lot of energy spent, your contribution being ABSOLUT ZERO. you’re the perfect example of a total waste of resources (if you get my point)!

  10. My Plastic-free Life says:

    Emily Utter, it does biodegrade. The folks at Algalita have actually tested it too.

  11. My Plastic-free Life says:

    Hi Patti Greene. Actually, the bio-plastic they have chosen is the only one which is certified to biodegrade completely in the marine environment. It’s a material called PHA. You can read more about it here: The certification means that microbes break down the molecules completely. It doesn’t just fall apart into smaller plastic pieces like many “Bio-plastics.”

  12. zoeborganic says:

    Mirel is a great resin, my company Zoë b Organic is using it for our biodegradable beach toys and line of dishes. You can check it out on our website at under Fantastic Anti-Plastic.

  13. Paul Sharp says:

    As long as it ends up as a nutrient rather than a micro-pollutant :-) Good result

  14. Susan Stewart says:

    Why don’t they just carve something out of driftwood? Then you won’t care what happens to it. Ooo, i’d pay money for something like that.

  15. It’s so impressive that this company changed their
    tune.  I thought they were pretty obnoxious on their FB page regarding the original environmental issue, so it’s a real tribute to you that they listened!

  16. Emily Utter says:

    Does it actually degrade?

  17. Tara Bloyd says:

    Thank you!

  18. Maeve says:

    Posted my comment to their Facebook page. 
    Thanks for this update, Beth!

  19. Maeve says:

    Posted my comment to their Facebook page. 
    Thanks for this update, Beth!

  20. Cathy Mullan says:


  21. Suzanne Meyer says:

    Beth, this is amazing news, if one small company will listen to us, imagine the effect we can have when large companies listen. Not a fan of the product but will support them and share.

  22. Linda LaRue says:

    This is an improvement, and I definitely encourage it since people will buy these frivolous, unnecessary things either way. At least they biodegrade. And bravo for a receptive business owner.

  23. TaishaMcGee says:

    While I agree that the red solo cup has to go, I think the point of a Turtleback is to keep a flimsy cup upright in the sand and to keep it from blowing away. A stainless steel cup really doesn’t convey that message and either does a water bottle.People who have these items at the beach are not their target demographic, I suspect. A paper cup would still retain the message and not contribute to the “red solo cup” cultural popularity.

    • TaishaMcGee says:

      Well, looking at their Facebook page, it seems I am partially wrong. The product is depicted holding all kinds of things, many of them non-plastic. Still, that solo cup has got to go.

      • BethTerry says:

        Yeah, I can see how it would keep light weight things from blowing away.  But it will also keep things from simply tipping over.  A stainless steel tumbler could tip just as easily as a Solo cup, you know?

  24. Susan Werb says:

    We should be using corn and sugar to make degradable plastics, not eating them


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