From trash to treasure: Certified B Corporations that minimize waste

The global waste problem may feel insurmountable, but some companies are finding creative new uses for materials that were almost trash. Here are some certified B corporations that turn trash to treasure.

Brands are upcycling plastic to save our seas 

Much of the world’s discarded plastics end up in oceans and in the digestive systems of marine life everywhere on the food chain. According to Surfers Against Sewage, “100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million seabirds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.” Because there is more plastic than prey at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, organisms feeding in the area tend to have plastic as a major component of their diets. Sea turtles caught in fisheries near the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can have up to 74% of their diets composed of ocean plastic. Thankfully, some brands have found innovative ways to reduce plastic waste in the oceans.

Bureo is a company that tackles plastic pollution in the ocean by focusing on minimizing fishing net waste. While this might seem like a narrow focus, as much as 86% of the large plastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are fishing nets. Bureo believes the large quantity of discarded fishing gear in our seas is due to “the lack of infrastructure available for when the nets meet their end of life.” Bureo works with fisheries and local communities to “provide an incentivized program to collect, clean, sort and recycle fishing nets into our NetPlus™ material… creating employment opportunities for local workers and funding for community programs” along the way.

Bureo has partnered with Patagonia on their Netplus clothing line, which uses fabric and hat brims made from recycled fishing nets. If you want to learn more about Bureo and their process, be sure to check out Benn’s conversation with one of the co-founders on the Responsibly Different™ podcast.

Corporations are taking on dead stock

Much of our clothing ends in an open loop system, meaning that it will eventually end in a landfill. The world generates over 17 million tons of textile municipal waste annually. Companies like Looptworks repurpose deadstock materials to create their products.

Unlike materials in open loops, closed loop materials can be used again and again. Looptworks uses 2 kinds of closed loops: natural and mechanical. Materials in a natural loop are organically based, like cotton and wool. These materials can be sorted, shredded, and respun to be reused. Materials in a mechanical loop are synthetic materials like polyester, rayon, and other petroleum-based fabrics. These fabrics can be shredded and granulated into chips that can be turned into new fibers. 

Cotopaxi, a Certified Climate Neutral retailer, also uses fabric that would otherwise be discarded in their repurposed material Collection. Cotopaxi also gives away 1% of its revenue through their Utah based foundation in the form of multi-year grants.

Creative solutions to the global waste problem

It’s estimated that about 6%-8% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated by minimizing food waste. Thankfully, many companies are getting creative in how they process their waste. Taos Ski Valley, the first certified B Corp ski resort, is finding innovative ways to upcycle food waste. The resort uses the soil amendment from the food dehydrator to bake the moisture out of food waste. The device can process 150 to 200 pounds of waste within 16 hours and produce “an inert carbon material that is used to enhance the rocky, mineral-heavy soil and reduce erosion.” 

Other companies with waste-minimizing initiatives include Eco Birdy and Terracycle. Eco Birdy repurposes discarded plastic children’s toys and turns them into children’s furniture. Terracycle processes a large variety of hard-to-recycle items through free national programs. Terracycle also has some paid programs and business recycling solutions.

While waste may feel like an inevitable part of our day to day lives, these companies are finding innovative ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle. The next time you go to make a purchase, think about what you will do with the item when it has reached the end of its useful life. If your desired item will inevitably end up in a landfill, how can you replace it with something from a closed loop? Are there other options for when it reaches the end of its useful life? 

By Bianca Gonzalez December 14, 2021