Walking past some canals in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, all you can see is trash: the water is filled with plastic bottles, bags, and other litter, slowly floating toward the ocean. The city doesn’t have a municipal recycling system, and recyclables that make it into trash cans usually go to the landfill. As global oil prices have dropped—reducing demand for recycled plastic—local trash pickers have been less likely to try to collect empty bottles.
Now some companies are trying to directly help create new demand for recycling. HP, which uses recycled plastic when it makes new printer cartridges, announced today that it will start buying some of that plastic from Haiti. Timberland will use recycled polyester, made from some of the same plastic, to make shoes and bags.
HP, which met leaders from Thread at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting, wanted to help support the local market.
« We didn’t want to just write a check, because we know that really to make these things work you have to help these companies scale up, you have to create a market for the materials, » says Nathan Hurst, chief sustainability and social impact officer for HP. « Otherwise, you may offer some assistance initially, but it’s not a sustainable source that will help them withstand the situation. »
In 2017, Timberland will launch a special collection of products, including duffel bags and boots, made in part with Thread’s recycled plastic fabric.