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74: Clothing from recycled plastic bottles

Problem:

The world is awash in discarded plastic bottles.

Solution:

Recycle plastic bottles into fabric thread for clothing.


Thread International produces both yarn and fabric, depending on the need. The company was formed after the 2010 Haiti earhquakes, when founder Ian Rosenberger travelled to Haiti looking for ways to help the devastated people of the island nation.

Its manufacturing process is simple. It heats up plastic waste collected by the Haitians, which is then extruded through a fine shower head-type machine, which then cuts up the result. The method reduces energy consumption by 80% compared to making virgin polyester, but the cost to clients is roughly 10% higher.

The impact in Haiti has been dramatic. Thread International supports about 300 recycling jobs on the island and, in 2015, sent 440,000 lb (200,000 kg) of plastic fiber to the U.S., where it is blended with cotton to produce canvas, jersey and denim products.

Working with a US$1.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Thread International was able to move from their East Liberty office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania into a larger workspace in Homewood.

While the company has found success partnering with brands such as Nike and Timberland since its initial founding. In February 2019, Timberland launched a Thread-infused collection (boots, duffel bag, backpack) and Thread signed up Kenneth Cole, another major brand.

Thread’s move to Homewood, provides the company with space to train and employ staff from the local community to stitch and assemble the bags, creating jobs to help battle unemployment in Homewood while also growing their eco-friendly business. Thread has several full-time employees on the ground in Haiti and Honduras to coordinate with local partners.

The company is also looking to expand its operations to Guatemala and Southeast Asia. According to Thread’s website, they have shipped more than 200,000 lb (100,000 kg) of recycled plastic out of Haiti since 2010.

France

In France, Thomas Huriez of Romans-sur-Isère (Drôme) is making denim jeans using sea litter collected by the French fishermen of the Mediterranean, during fishing trips on the coast.

They are encouraged to continue to clean up the beaches and their surroundings, which are full of polyethylene-type plastics, which then serve to create the fabric for the pants in a mono-material. Huriez had already launched Modetic, a shop specializing in the sale of ecological, equitable, ethical, and local products, when in 2013 with his brother Huriez switched to trousers and shoes.

They called their brand Jeans Infini 1083, 1083 km. being the longest distance that can be traveled in France by road number between Menton and Porspoder, north of Brest.

Not only are the trousers made from 100% recycled plastic, they are 100% recyclable and returnable. The life cycle of Jeans Infini begins at the company Antex, which manufactures Seaqual ™ yarn in Spain (80 km from the French border). Infini then dye this 100% recycled yarn, in Pont-de-Labeaume, they weave it in Coublanc, then they make the jeans in Marseille.

Once bought, when the client’s jeans reach the end of their life, they will return it to Infini for free and get back their 20 € deposit. Their old jeans will then be crushed to be re-transformed into yarn and 1083 jeans again and so on ad infinitum. (1083.fr)

USA

Another much bigger manufacturer, Wrangler, owned by Kontoor, has introduced denims dyed with foam, a revolutionary technique that uses 100 % less water than conventionally-dyed denim and also reduces energy use and waste by more than 60 % compared to the conventional denim dyeing process.

Wrangler’s Indigood technology reflects in the brand’s global sustainability goals, which include: conserving 1.5 billion gallons (5.5 billion liters) of water at owned and operated facilities by 2020; using 100% preferred chemistry throughout their supply chain by 2020; powering all owned and operated facilities with 100% renewable electricity by 2025; and sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2025. (kontoorbrands.com)

What you can do: Buy this clothing and show it off to your friends.

Discover Solution 75: rain-making across China

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