4 Groundbreaking Companies Turning Trash into Clothing

What’s more innovative than being able to turn garbage into beautiful and functional clothing? Not much in my opinion. From high quality sportswear to high fashion couture, several companies are leading the way in an eco-friendly movement often referred to as trashion (trash + fashion). No matter what you call it, transforming trash into wearable clothing rather than it ending up in a landfill is pretty remarkable.


Founded in Brunswick, Maine by Jeremy Litchfield in 2007, Atayne turns recycled garbage into high performance sportswear for men and women. The company’s products are made from things like plastic bottles, recycled clothing, and even snow crab shells.

The process of creating the clothing fabric involves breaking down the trash into small strands of fabric called filaments. The filaments are then used much like traditional thread to make the clothing. According to Litchfield, plastic bottles are a form of polyester, and turning them into high performance recycled polyester material uses 70 percent less energy compared to virgin polyester fabrics. Atayne is still a young company but is already raking in six-figures of revenue each year.

 atayne recycled fitness clothing


Although the number of plastic bottles recycled in the U.S. has grown year-after-year for the past two decades, only about 29% of plastic bottles ever actually reach a recycling center, according to 2010 statistics provided by the American Chemistry Council. A company out of Seattle, WA called RETH¿NK is taking full advantage of recycled plastic in a big way.

This innovative company, founded in 2008, strives to bring awareness to plastic bottle recycling by actually telling you exactly how many plastic bottles were used to make each and every one of its shirts. For instance, its basic men’s ringspun t-shirt is composed of 14 plastic bottles. Each one of RETH¿NK’s shirts is made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. The plastic is converted into polyethylene terephthalate (also called PET or RPET) during a melting/spinning process. The resulting fiber is a polyester material ideal for making top quality shirts. As of the date of this writing, the company has recycled 5,913,760 plastic bottles into this synthetic fiber for its clothing.

  Rethink recycled plastic bottle shirts

If you can't wear your trash, make sure it's disposed of properly with a dumpster.

Designer Nancy Judd

Nancy Judd is an artist and designer who makes a living by turning junk into couture fashion. Her primary goal is to educate the public about the importance of preserving the environment. She’s hosted several fashion shows over the years, spoke at universities and environmental events, and many of her fashions are on display at museums nationwide, including her “Obamanos Coat” on permanent display at the Smithsonian.

Judd has put her talent in fashion and art to good use by spreading the word about sustainability, recycling, and the environment. Several major corporations, including Target, Coca-Cola, and Toyota, have sponsored her unique fashions. Judd’s company, Recycle Runway, was founded while working as the recycling coordinator in the city of Sante Fe, New Mexico. Her interest in creating couture fashions from trash began in 1998 following a Recycle Sante Fe Art Market and Fashion Contest she co-founded.

  Nancy Judd trash couture fashion


Phil Tepfer and Charles Bogoian began developing sportswear designed to wick away perspiration and prevent chafing back in 2007 while still in college. Based out of Boston, MA, the two enterprising young men borrowed $25,000 to launch SailProud, a line of sportswear designed for sailors. Just two years later, the LiveProud Group was born. The new company focused on using recycled materials like plastic bottles, corn husks, and coconut shells to make high-performance sportswear.

The young company eventually launched two other product lines – one for the hiking community called TrekProud, and a line aimed at the Yoga community called BeProud. LiveProud Group generated $110,000 in revenues in 2009, according to Bloomberg Business Week, and tripled that amount the following year. All of the company’s growing line of sports apparel is made from materials recovered from landfills and recycling centers. In addition to its clothing being eco-friendly and great at handling sweat and moisture, LiveProud’s lineup of sportswear also features a UV factor of 50+ to help protect you from the sun.

liveproud eco-friendly sportswear

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