Recycling bins are on every corner in many major cities in the United States. We take for granted that we have access to recycling — plastic recycling, metal recycling, glass recycling, you name it. However, it’s not so easy to recycle in developing countries.
Take Haiti, for example. In Port-au-Prince alone, every month around 9 million pounds of plastic waste is created. Not surprisingly, the majority of that plastic waste comes from plastic bottles. Since recycling isn’t common there, the bottles are tossed into canals or on the streets. This habit is not good news for Mother Nature.
One man – Ian Rosenberger – had a vision to change the plastic pollution landscape in Haiti after helping with disaster relief efforts in the country. He also wanted to help with the poverty so many Haitians struggle with in a country that has a 40% unemployment rate.
From this vision, Thread was born as a solution to both the plastic waste and the poverty struggles in Haiti. Thread turns the mountains of plastics into fabric (i.e., plastic recycling) – and jobs for impoverished Haitians.
So how does the plastic recycling solution work?
People throughout Haiti can collect plastic bottles and turn them into the Ramase Lajan, a network of 26 plastic-collection centers sponsored by Executives without Borders (a non-profit) and owned and operated by Haitians. These people are given an immediate sum of cash, which allows them to provide for their family and keep the plastic waste out of their country.
After the plastic bottles are collected through the Ramase Lajan collection centers, they’re then moved to Haiti Recycling in Port-au-Prince to be cleaned and shredded down into a raw material called “flake.” The flake is packaged and exported to the United States.
After arrival in the U.S., the flake is melted and extruded into fiber and spin yarn that’s made into a variety of different fabrics like 100% recycled PET polyester. Some of the plastic thread is also blended with cotton or canvas. Once the fabric is made, it’s sold to manufacturers that turn it into boots and shoes, bags and totes, sports apparel as well as a variety of other consumer products.
All of the polyester fabrics Thread manufactures are 100% post-consumer material. These fabrics need approximately 90% less water and 80% less energy to manufacture compared to virgin polyesters that are made straight from oil.
Through their 100% transparent supply line, Thread has been able to support the creation of nearly 4,000 income opportunities in Haiti and Honduras (Thread also operates in Honduras). In addition, they are able to collect and re-purpose around 300,000 pounds of plastic waste from these impoverished countries each month.
If you like to support responsibly made products, look for apparel and accessories made with Thread Ground to Good fabrics.
All imagery courtesy of Thread International and Jesse Colaizzi Productions