Bionic Yarn is a New York-based startup company that turns old used water bottles into yarns and fabrics to make clothing, some which are taken from the ocean shorelines.
Plastic bottles are made of the same polymer as polyester, so Bionic Yarn is able to break them down and remake them into “recycled” polyester, according to the Huffington Post. The yarn made from this substance can be used in place of virgin polyester or new polyester made directly from crude oil.
Geographic Information System coordinator Eileen Allen said that when she first heard about the company, she thought it was exciting to see a company bring such an innovative idea.
“I’ve been noticing that many people in companies like that have a sense of social responsibility. They’re inventive, and they want to do something that matters,” Allen said. “And I think that’s really a good change in our culture to have that.”
Depending on the fabric, the company uses different strategies to turn the bottles into plastic. If it’s a denim material, the company uses the plastic fibers and combine it with cotton. For suits, the fibers are combined with wool and cashmere, and more industrial clothing such as snowboarding jackets are used simply using recycled polyester, according to a CNN article.
“Plastic is here to stay, so we might as well figure out ways to repurpose it,” Allen said.
There are currently 165 million tons of plastic in the ocean today, according to the World Economic Forum. Based on these reports, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish by weight comparison.
The reports also brought up the idea that people might be socially aware of the problems that exist in the environment, but they aren’t actively trying to change anything.
Allen agrees there is an alarming amount of people who don’t care about the environment, but she also says there is a large amount of PSUC students who come to her with ideas. She said one student was recently in her office asking her how they could recycle more on campus.
“I think that the campus community has been trying to bring ideas to campus, and it’s really neat because people all over campus do care,” Allen said.
Allen said change does take time. She said that she was a student, she remembers when Jimmy Carter was president and people made fun of him for turning down the heat in the White House. She said people would mock him for wearing a sweater instead, but society is much different today.
“People wouldn’t make fun of someone for doing that now,” she said. “Change takes time. We just have to keep nibbling away at it.”
Allen said the work Bionic Yarn is doing is in the step in the right direction. Recording artist Pharrell Williams is the creative director behind the company, and Allen said it’s great that such celebrities are behind these kinds of eco-friendly companies.
“Many of the things that have been discussed have been in recent years have been around for a long time in terms of helping the environment,” she said. “There’s more of a cultural shift now.”
Allen said celebrities can now influence people to become aware of these types of companies and causes that have been around for a while.
“I think there’s a wide scale shift in our cultural awareness in large part because it’s become cool or cache,” she said. “It’s become acceptable.”
International business and global supply chain management junior Menelik Pascal is currently working on Project Aqua, a water supply company that tries to find water solutions for the most at risk areas and people.
Growing up in his home island of Dominica, Pascal said that climate change has affected lifestyles greatly. He said he’s seen firsthand how water shortages affect the people around him, which is why water conservation is an issue he’s very passionate about.
When Pascal heard about Bionic Yarn, he said the idea sounded weird, but after doing more research, he thought it was a great company.
“But after looking into it, I think it’s amazing what they’re doing and to be honest, I’m surprised someone hasn’t really done anything before,” he said.
Pascal said the only similar clothing company that he’s heard about being eco-friendly was H&M. H&M is currently also one of this biggest users of recycled polyester, according to its sustainability reports.
“I know H&M has this thing where they’re trying to increase their carbon footprint by using organic cotton,” he said. “I like that this company took it to whole other different and they said ‘Hey let’s recycle plastic.’”
In terms of getting more students to become aware of these environmental issues, he said people just have to make a part of their everyday life. He said people can shoot facts and figures about various problems such as littering or water usage, but people don’t appreciate what they have until it hits closer to home.
“So I think for example, you know how cigarettes have that health warning? They’ll have an x-ray of the lungs and what it looks like, and it’s stuff like that actually gets you,” he said. “I think if someone can bring that artistically across, there might be an impact.”
“I’m looking forward to trying one of their jackets,” Pascal said.
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