The global fashion industry has a major pollution problem, thanks to the rise of fast-fashion apparel. Cheap, low quality items can be bought, disposed of, and bought again, but at an environmental cost—large quantities of water that become contaminated with bleaches, dyes, and more during the manufacturing process, for one thing. But one company is trying to make fashion a little more environmentally friendly, as Co.Exist reports. A Pittsburgh-based company called Thread International recycles trash collected from streets and canals in Haiti to create thread and fabric that puts plastic bottles to good use and provides jobs.
The company estimates that its trash-centric manufacturing process reduces water use by 50 percent compared to the manufacture of a cotton shirt. Thread International also prides itself on creating fair wages and safe working conditions for its employees in some of the poorest parts of Haiti and Honduras, motivated by founder Ian Rosenberger's desire to help Haitians after the country's 2010 earthquake.
Threat International makes yarn and thread and sells its own fabric. Fashion companies like Timberland and Kenneth Cole are using the company’s materials to make shoes, bags, and clothes. HP is using the recycled plastic to make printer cartridges.
The brands who use Thread’s materials end up paying a little more than they otherwise would, but the process uses 80 percent less energy than making virgin polyester, according to Co.Exist. To some companies, the trade off between ethical manufacturing and cheap goods is worth it, attracting customers who are willing to pay a little more for the peace of mind of buying products that are better for the environment.