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Climate Crew: UM student turns trash from Great Lakes beaches into sustainable t-shirts

Oshki founder Jackson Riegler picking up platstic on a beach.
Photo courtesy of Jackson Riegler
“When you see the importance of the Great Lakes to our community, and really to the world all together, I mean you have to act," Oshki founder Jackson Riegler said.";

Nearly 22 million pounds of plastic end up in the Great Lakes each year. University of Michigan student and West Michigan native Jackson Riegler is stepping up to face that challenge, and he's doing it through fashion. 

Riegler is the founder of Oshki, a company that uses plastic waste to create sustainable apparel.

“We repurpose plastic waste from the Great Lakes and around the U.S. and make it into recycled polyester, which is then produced into all of our clothing,” Riegler explained.

Riegler says that he’s always been passionate about the Great Lakes. He was inspired to start Oshki as a high school junior because he was concerned about threats to water quality in the region, including Asian carp, budget cuts, and of course, plastic waste.

In addition to addressing plastic pollution, Riegler says Oshki seeks to draw attention to the problem of “fast fashion." That term refers to the proliferation of inexpensive, low-quality clothing items that are worn a few times and thrown away. Riegler says he wants Oshki to be a part of shifting that mindset. 

“I really want to really push the boundaries of reusing plastic waste in innovative ways that no other apparel company has done,” Riegler said. “I want to be making shirts that are going to last 20, 30 years, making garments that are going to undeniably last a very long time.”

Riegler hopes that Oshki's work can help prompt the fashion industry as a whole to consider the issue of rapid turnover and cultivate a more sustainable mindset.

Know someone who has stepped up to do their part to make Michigan a greener place? Let us know! Send us a note at stateside@michiganradio.org and put “Climate Crew” in the subject line.

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