Photocredit: Jordan McRae
26 June 2014, Vancouver, Canada – Upcycle the Gyres Society (UpGyres) and TerraCycle Inc. are pleased to announce that they are working together to design, develop, and implement a zero-waste system for laundry machine lint recovery and reutilization.
Scientists have discovered that household washing machines and dryers are a major source of “microplastic” pollution detected in every ocean across the globe. On average, more than 1,900 fibres of microplastic –bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin– can be discarded by a single synthetic garment during a normal laundry cycle.
Microplastics can collect and concentrate dangerous toxins such as PCBs and additive chemicals. Consumption of microplastics can prevent proper nutrient absorption and cause organ damage in marine animals. Microplastics can also affect bacteria, plankton, and aquatic worms, which provide crucial functions for the entire ocean ecosystem and represent the very basis of the food chain. Since approximately 1 billion people in the developing world depend on fish for their primary source of protein, microplastics pose a significant threat to not only marine life, but also human populations.
Tom Szaky originally founded TerraCycle in 2002 as a 20-year-old Princeton University freshman. The company has grown to become a highly-awarded, international upcycling and recycling company that collects difficult-to-recycle post-consumer waste such as cigarette butts, coffee capsules and drink pouches. The materials collected are then repurposed into affordable, innovative materials and products that are available online and through major retailers. TerraCycle works with more than 100 major brands in the U.S. and more than 20 countries around the world to collect packaging and products that would instead be destined for landfills or incinerators.
TerraCycle has already engaged millions of consumers with the goal of “eliminating the idea of waste” and has the ability to engage millions more through new collection programs. TerraCycle, in association with UpGyres, will promote and provide an outlet for the collection of dryer and washing machine effluents though TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box Program (http://zerowasteboxes.terracycle.com). The program effectively allows TerraCycle to collect anything for which there is a market by allowing individuals or small businesses to sponsor the recycling of the waste streams of their choice.
UpGyres and TerraCycle believe that there is substantial potential for the Zero Waste Program to aggregate washer and dryer waste fibers for recycling, thereby preventing microplastics from reaching our oceans. Such possibilities for collection include laundromats, hotel chains and nursing homes.
UpGyres’ consortium partners will then process the recovered waste fibers and upcycle them into yarn. This upcycled product can be used to manufacture textiles and create a diverse array of products including garments, accessories, stuffing, carpets, insulation and soundproofing.
The harmonious partnership between UpGyres and TerraCycle will allow both companies to achieve their individual goals of preventing plastic pollution and providing previously non-recyclable waste a new life.