Shore Buddies are made from 100 percent recycled bottles using six bottles per stuffed animal and feature authentic sounds matching the animal.
SAN DIEGO— In 2010, Matle Niebelschuetz left his corporate job in Duesseldorf, Germany, and moved to San Diego, where he accidentally founded his company, Shore Buddies.
Shore Buddies are stuffed animals made from recycled plastic bottles. It takes six bottles to make one shore buddy, and by 2021, Shore Buddies have saved over one million plastic bottles from entering the oceans.
Niebelschuetz came across an article from Patagonia featuring one of their outdoor jackets made entirely from recycled soda bottles. After finishing the article and closing his laptop, Niebelschuetz caught sight of a stuffed animal. That’s when the idea came to him to make a stuffed animal out of recycled materials.
“He [Malte] looked locally in San Diego, and eventually stateside for a factory that could make recycled plastic materials,” said Operations Manager Raylee Crawford in an email from Feb. 8. “He was met with many “Nos’” due to it not being done before…until China came along! ‘China has historically had a long history in fabrics. China and India used to be the ones developing new styles of fabric. They were ahead of the curve when reutilizing plastics.'”
The bottles are collected and sorted by recyclable collectors, then cleaned and shredded into plastic flakes. Some of these flakes are used for the plush toys’ stuffing; others are melted and turned into polyester yarn for the soft outside. Shore Buddies hopes to get to the point of having people send them plastic bottles that they collect to use as well.
Shore Buddies puts a lot of effort into educating people of all ages about the dangers of plastic pollution.
Each Shore Buddy comes with a name and a background story that addresses a specific topic. For example, the dolphin Shore Buddy, Finn educates about the danger of plastic straws and the significant problems they can cause for marine life. Other characters include Shelly the Sea Turtle, Stephen Seagull, Sammy the Seal, and Emma, the Whale.
In 2014, when Shore Buddies hit the market, Niebelschuetz went from school to school, pitching his Shore Buddies as an educational opportunity for students. By the end of 2015, Shore Buddies were in over 100 schools.
“From the very beginning, I wanted Shore Buddies to be more than a typical stuffed animal,” said Niebelschuetz. “Besides the innovative ways to use recycled materials for our stuffed animals, we also support ocean…non-profit organizations.”
Shore Buddies helps fund programs such as beach cleanups and educational outreach with local schools. The Shore Buddies team is spread out all over the globe and is constantly working on new ideas. Not only are they looking to add new characters to their group of stuffed animals, but Niebelschuetz wants to continue to add new educational and updated content for the outreach programs.
According to Shore Buddies, one million sea birds and 100,000 marina mammals are killed annually from plastic in the oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains over 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic and spans the entire width of the area between Japan and the United States. This is one tragedy that Niebelschuetz addresses personally through his online and in-person outreach programs. Shore Buddies’ mission is to protect marine life and keep plastics out of the ocean. For every stuffed animal made from recycled plastic bottles, $1 goes to Marine Life.
You can also calculate your plastic footprint on the Shore Buddies website. By inputting how many plastic bags, bottles, straws, cups, or utensils you use per day, the website features a calculator that will tell you the total amount of ounces of plastic you use per day.
Other products offered are reusable, clickable open straws, a book about Shore Buddies, and keychain versions of the Shore Buddies characters.