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The Journey of Upcycling Plastic Bottles to Create Sustainable Jobs and Products

In episode 37 of the Disruptors for GOOD podcast, I speak with Ian Rosenberger, Founder of WORK, First Mile, and Day Owl on upcycling plastic bottles to create sustainable jobs and sustainable products.

WORK places the poor into jobs in landfill communities. First Mile has redirected over 96 Million plastic bottles from landfills and the ocean and transformed them into consumer goods for global brands trying to find value in authenticity, transparency, and responsibility.

Day Owl is a direct-to-consumer brand that has created a backpack out of First Mile materials that the team feels will prepare everyone to take on the world.  Ian works most in landfill community assessment, sourcing strategy, understanding how to translate impact into economic value, and leveraging impact in storytelling.

He has spoken about his work at SXSW, Harvard Business School, and the United Nations. He is a 2016 Barclay’s Unreasonable Impact Fellow and currently sits on the Ocean Conservancy’s Technical Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Plastic Waste. To date, he has directed nearly $10 Million to need-based communities with too much plastic and not enough jobs. He is a brand new dad and believes that ending poverty and the plastic crisis is all but certain by the time he and his wife Raashi have grandchildren.

In the podcast episode, Ian speaks about his journey to Haiti, starting a non-profit there, and eventually his original business THREAD International there that has become the foundation for his new ventures. After much innovation and partnerships with some of the largest brands in the world, including Ralph Lauren, Converse, and Timberland, Ian and his team have decided to go all in on making sustainability products for a new generation of consumers. 

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