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Brief Published: 4 Jul 2014

The Plastic Economy: A New Opportunity

Clockwise L-R - Plasticity Forum, NetWorks, Waste2Wear, Waste2Wear

Sustainable entrepreneurs and advocates convened at the Plasticity Forum in New York City (June 24) to discuss how improved recycling technology and growing consumer awareness is giving rise to business opportunities that turn waste into profit.

South America-based organisation The Plastic Bank  allows residents to bring in plastic waste and exchange it for credits applicable to microloans, education, building materials and 3D printing services. Founder David Katz explained that plastic is recycled on-site into 3D printing filament, which members can use to create items to sell at the market – adding further incentive and value. The first two exchange centres opened in Peru and Colombia in May 2014.

Dutch textiles engineer Monique Maissan’s Shanghai-based enterprise Waste2Wear turns plastic bottles recovered from the ocean into fabrics for practical, comfortable garments. Designs include school and work uniforms made by her brand Vision Textiles, and collaborations with India’s Tara handloom to create plastic-silk blends.

Since 2012, together with Zoological Society of London, Atlanta-based carpet tile manufacturer Interface has been running Net-Works, a programme that pays people from struggling coastal villages for collecting discarded fishing nets. The two groups see different value in collecting the nylon nets – they’re terrible for marine life, yet perfect for carpets. This project demonstrates the importance of collaboration when focusing on sustainable issues, through which brands can create holistic solutions.

As environmental awareness among consumers grows, brands are engaging with issues of waste and sustainability, seeing it as a business opportunity that can increase revenue while protecting people and planet. For more examples, see Closing the Loop: Future-Proofing Design, and our upcoming Sustainability report from the Packaging Futures Industry Trend.