If you wear garments or accessories made with fabric from Pittsburg-based Thread, you’re actually wearing recycled plastic bottles. The social enterprise startup has found a way to not only help the environment, but also provide jobs to people in need.
The idea first came to founder Ian Rosenberger when he traveled to Haiti in 2010 to help with earthquake relief. While there, he noticed enormous piles of plastic trash throughout the country.
He did some research upon his return to the U.S., and found that plastic bottles could actually be turned into fabric. He connected with some partners and received advice and funding from the Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit innovation accelerator. And his company, Thread, was born.
Now, the startup partners with Ramase Lajan, a network of plastic collection centers throughout Haiti. When participants bring in their plastic bottles to a collection center, they receive cash for their efforts. So the program not only helps clean up the Haitian environment, it also provides much needed work and money to people who need it.
Once Thread receives the plastic material, the company’s U.S. based production facilities turn it into fiber and then weave it into fabric. Companies like Moop, another Pittsburg-based business, then purchase the fabric and turn it into consumer goods.
But with the current number of companies making green product claims, consumers are getting a little skeptical. So how do you separate the actual green products from those that just claim to be, especially when companies aren’t always transparent about their manufacturing process?
Thread offers an alternative approach that lays the entire process open to consumers who can follow things from raw material stage to finished product with ease. The process is pretty straightforward. Bottles get turned into raw material. Raw material gets turned into fabric. Fabric gets turned into goods. People know where their material comes from and how it is made.
Rosenberger told The Atlantic:
“We wanted to offer a real way for manufacturers to be authentic in their claims about their fabrics. We’re a social company first. Every yard of our fabric that someone buys changes people’s lives.”
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