I’ll admit it, few materials in life are as convenient as plastic. It is used for gosh-darn, quite near everything in our lives — vehicles, packaging, electronics, clothing. I mean, you name it, plastic is probably in it.
But not sure that any of the facts and figures I’ve mentioned before quite put our plastic usage into perspective quite like a recent study coming from industrial ecologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Roland Geyer. Geyer, the first person to actually tally how much plastic people have manufactured since its invention, found that so far we have produced 8.3 billion (yes, you read that right, billion) metric tons of plastic.
According to Geyer, that is enough to cover an area the size of Argentina (the eighth largest country in the world, BTW). Ankle. Deep.
Plastic production has outpaced any other manufactured material out there, increasing by 8% per year for decades, according to Geyer. And, unfortunately, it shows no signs of slowing down (like I said, it’s really freakin’ useful).
And (you maybe have heard this before), “Virtually all the plastic we ever made is non-degradable. (It) will be with us for hundreds of years,” says Geyer.
The majority of that plastic just gets thrown away at the end of it’s life. And much of that ends up in the soil, in smaller particles, in the ocean and in our waterways, where it can wreck havoc on marine life and our food chain.
And, one of the biggest culprits is plastic bottles. It is estimated that only one out of every six plastic bottles purchased is recycled. That means that five are thrown away and end up in landfills or in our oceans.
It makes you wish there was some sort of solution, amirite? Like someone or something that could recycle some of that plastic pollution into something else.
Well, by golly, if that is not what Thread International is all about. Thread International quite literally takes trash from the streets and turns it into fabric.
The certified B Corp began from a journal entry in 2010 after the Haiti earthquake, “If Haiti can turn trash into money = good.” And that is exactly what Thread International set out to do. The company re-imagined the trash they saw in Haiti as a renewable resource and began a supply chain that was not only removing plastic bottles from the streets, but creating jobs in the developing world in the process. The self-proclaimed “responsibiligeeks,” (I really wish I would have come up with that name, BTW) created their line of Ground to Good fabrics that do good throughout their entire operation.
The company employs local Haitians to hand collect plastic bottles from the streets in Haiti. The collectors then sell the plastic bottles to a local collection center, which allows them to earn extra cash for groceries, school expenses, etc. Then, at the collection center, the employees sort and de-label the bottles before packing them in ‘supersacks.’ The supersacks are collected from across the country by local trucking and shipping companies and sent to a Haitian-run manufacturing plant.
At the plant, the bottles are cleaned and processed into plastic ‘flake,’ which is the raw material used to create the fabric. Then the flake is shipped to the United States, where it goes through a number of processing steps to get to its finished product.
By 2013, Thread International and their partners had removed 70 million plastic bottles from the streets of Haiti, and helped provide income opportunities for 1,620 people. And today a single t-shirt from Thread International removes 2.25 plastic bottles from the streets and canals of Haiti, uses 50% less water than a cotton t-shirt (enough for a 35 minute shower), supports 3,845 income opportunities in Haiti and helps create 233 full and part-time jobs through collection and manufacturing.
The company makes jersey, canvas, denim and fleece fabrics (among others), as well as yarns and their own line of T-Shirts. They work with brands like Timberland, Kenneth Cole, Hamilton Perkins, Kelly Lane, Davey Handmade and Deux Mains. And they are working hard to expand, with the belief that the more fabric they sell, the more waste they can help repurpose and the more jobs they can support.