Chicago-based building products manufacturer Azek Co. and Oakland, Calif-based thredUP, an online consignment and thrift store, formed a recycling partnership to turn plastic waste from clothes packaging into composite decking.
Azek will transport thredUP's used polyethylene "clean out bags," which once held clothes sent to the company for resale, to its PE recycling facility in Wilmington, Ohio.
The 102,000-square-foot facility takes post consumer and post industrial plastic wrap, shampoo bottles, milk jugs and detergent bottles from around the country and turns it into a granular material. The material is formulated with wood fiber and extruded into TimberTech Pro and Edge decking boards at a manufacturing plant three miles away.
The Wilmington facility can turn 100 million pounds of used PE a year into a material for composite decking. The partnership with thredUP will help Azek reach capacity.
Founded in 2009, the publicly traded thredUP "recirculates" clothes, shoes and accessories that women and children "no longer wear, need or love" by selling them on its online platform and giving the original owner cash or a shopping credit.
The company says it generated $242 million in sales in 2021 while extending the life of clothing and moving toward a more sustainable future for the fashion industry.
But after the clothes were processed, thredUP was left holding millions of "clean out bags." Through 2021, the company says it processed 137 million items, which it said displaced 637 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions and saved buyers $4.1 billion off retail prices.
The consignment store company switched from paper mailers to plastic mailers that are reusable and recyclable in 2019. The recycling partnership with Azek will give thredUp an end user for the bags and help the building products manufacturer meet its goal to recycle 1 billion pounds of material annually by 2026.
In addition to PE recycling capabilities, Azek is the largest vertically-integrated recycler of PVC in the United States.
In the 2022 fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, Azek reached the halfway point to its goal, recycling about 500 million pounds of waste and scrap.
The TimberTech decking line is made from about 85 percent recycled material that is engineered to replicate the look of wood while lasting a lifetime.
The thredUP partnership is a unique collaboration of innovative and like-minded companies, according to Azek CEO Jesse Singh.
"We are two companies revolutionizing two industries — fashion and building products — to create a more sustainable future, each of us with a full circle commitment to have an outsized impact on the world, while growing a sustainable business," Singh said in a news release.
While thredUP's mission is rooted in circularity, the company also is focused on ways to ensure its operations are as sustainable as possible, according to Alon Rotem, chief legal officer of thredUP.
"We are proud to partner with Azek and support their ambitious goal to recycle 1 billion pounds of material annually," Rotem said in the release. "This partnership is an exciting opportunity to level up our previous bag recycling program and create long-lasting premium products that people can enjoy and feel good about."