SEATTLE — In 2018, Collins Dictionary named “single-use” as the word of the year. Many single-use products are associated with the plastic pollution crisis. They end up everywhere, from the oceans to the land we live on. Impoverished countries and communities are especially susceptible to the detrimental effects of plastic pollution. Fortunately, companies like Thread International have come up with a number of innovative solutions to tackle this crisis — through upcycling.
Upcycling is essentially like recycling, but it reuses discarded items in such a way that the new product is of higher quality or material than its original counterpart. For instance, Thread International upcycles old plastic and turns it into fabric. They then use this fabric to manufacture shoes, backpacks and clothing. The company has collaborated with big brands including Aerie, Reebok and Timberland who sell collections of items made with Thread International’s upcycled fabric. Although Thread International is based in the U.S. the company makes it a point of duty to source raw materials from developing areas thus providing a source of income for people living in Haiti, Honduras and Taiwan.
How to Upcycle Plastic Into Fabric
In Haiti, individuals collect plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and sell them to one of the 45 collection facilities that are run by local Haitian entrepreneurs. These bottles are then sorted, ground up into bits and shipped to the U.S. to be turned into fabric. Thread International says that plastic collectors earn an income of about $3.57 per day. This is one and a half times greater than the country’s overall average of $2.24 per day.
Not only is Thread International providing individuals in Haiti, Honduras and Taiwan the opportunity to earn an income and provide for their families, they are also helping to clean up the environment. Often times, plastic bottles will have some water pooled at the bottom. This water, combined with the heat and humidity that many impoverished countries experience is a breeding ground for disease-carrying bacteria that may harbor life-threatening diseases including:
- Malaria – a disease transmitted through a mosquito bite. Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Dengue Fever – a viral disease that, like malaria, is caused by mosquito bites.
- Cholera – bacterial disease that causes severe dehydration and diarrhea.
Plastic pollution is not a problem that will go away overnight. But with companies like Thread International working to empower and employ those who are most affected by the effects, the world is coming one step closer to finding a permanent solution.
– CJ Sternfels