Polina Groman takes the time to speak with AANY to answer a few questions and offer valuable insights into the recycling industry. Through her efforts, she has demonstrated that not only is recycling a necessity for more sustainable manufacturing and consumerism in today’s market, but it can also be a viable and profitable business venture.
After co-founding and developing a bio-fuel business which was sold to venture capitalist in 2010, she has branched out into the recycling of textiles with her company SpinGreen. She is also working in educational programs to instruct the next generation in ways of more responsible living that society may continue developing in sustainable ways by harmonizing ourselves with the environment in which we live.
When did you begin to explore the business opportunities in recycling?
In 2003 I discovered that Brazil uses Biodiesel as fuel for trucks and school buses. At that time US was feuding over prices of ethanol and other commodities which can produce natural fuel. So 2 years later Brooklyn Biodiesel was born. Brooklyn Bio picked up used cooking oil from restaurants and provided a feed stock to bio diesel producers to make Biodiesel to fuel cars, trucks, buses, etc..
How did you learn about recycling fiber?
In 2008 a friend of mine went to Europe and came back gushing how everyone recycles clothes there just like we recycle paper and plastics. It was such a big concept to me. I did not know that clothes can be recycled and are not meant to be discarded once badly damages or worn out. I got curious and started researching…
I’m still learning all the ways and possibilities one can recycle fibers/textiles.
How do you feel recycling is a viable and important development in the economic market?
Investing in recycling should be considered an essential component of economic development and included in strategies to nurture our challenged economy. Not only does recycling provide services critical to a sustainable economy, recycling is a substantial sector of the U.S. economy, representing more than 1.1 million jobs and billions of dollars in sales and payroll. Moreover, due to its ability to cultivate value-added economic activity from resources that would otherwise remain unproductive, recycling has the capacity to create jobs and foster further economic progress and prosperity. Studies show, for example, that recycling waste creates four jobs in the recycling industry for every one job that is created in the waste disposal industry if the material is not recycled. Further, for every job collecting recyclables, there are 26 jobs in processing the materials, manufacturing them into new products, and getting those new products to the marketplace and consumers. A True WIN/Win for everyone!
What resistance have you encountered in your endeavors?
The resistance comes from lack of knowledge and industry as a whole. Most consumers, property managers and business owners do not know that textiles can be recycled. If you ask an average New Yorker what do you do with your unwanted, old clothes and shoes the typical answer is call GoodWill to pick it up or throw it in the trash. Annually NYC residents throw away approximately 200,000 tons of clothes, towels, blankets, curtains, shoes, handbags, belts, and other textiles and apparel. Why New Yorkers sometimes choose to toss out rather than donate their unwanted clothes is simply a matter of convenience. What happens when GoodWill won’t take your ripped sweater or stained t-shirt because that kinda stuff won’t sell? Goes back to the trash in to the landfill. This is what makes SpinGreen different from most other companies. We collect both donation and non donation grade.
What successes have you enjoyed?
Last month we have celebrated our 1st anniversary. Up to date we have placed over 500 convenient drop off locations/recycling bins which include residential buildings, commercial spaces, and schools and faith based organizations . We at SpinGreen, believe the most important investment one can make in the future is, Education. We created an education fund to teach kids all about going Green and recycling, which we offer for FREE to schools, youth centers and non profits. We are proud to state, since January 2013 we have educated over 479 students. This includes teaching at Police Athletic League, Boys and Girls Club and countless schools and non profits.
We had the pleasure to be interviewed by one of my Recycling heroes John Shegerian, on nations #1 rated Environmentally themed show, Green is Good Radio. (http://spingreen.com/radio.mp3) Created the SpinGreen Show for Public Access (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvrp5g1oQ10 ) and just got featured by NY1 for a coat drive we did in collaboration with IHOP.(http://www.ny1.com/content/pages/203841/mariners-harbor-coat-drive-provides-warmth-for-families-in-need)
How will younger generations play a part in developing a more environmentally responsible social consciousness?
In order to preserve the planet we all live on it is very important to begin teaching students at a young age the importance of recycling. Students are like sponges and observe information well if they learn about it starting at their early childhood education and throughout their school years. They should be aware of the importance of recycling, and therefore I strongly believe each school district should implement into their lesson plans a lesson of recycling in order for the students to begin recycling themselves. Students should learn about the causes and effects of recycling and from there teach their families of the importance of it if their families don’t contribute to recycling themselves. They need to know why recycling will conserve a better earth to live in. In addition to the long-range benefits of good environmental stewardship, green education helps schools provide healthier surroundings for their students and staff. The mission of of our Eco Education at SpinGreen, is to provide students, teachers and faculty with the tools and training they need to create a “culture of conservation” within their community.
How have you been using education to inform the public about environmental needs?
Besides Educating the Kids and working with younger students we have created a “Customer Appreciation Day” for Business and Commercial entities we work with. Any business that has a parking lot can participate Free of charge. We set up a table like one does at an event or trade show. Invite press and members of community, educate them on benefits of recycling textiles and show appreciation to the participating business by bringing more customers to their location for that day. A true WIN/WIN for the business, and community as a whole!
What do you feel are the best methods for achieving a zero waste economic market for society?
Short answer is every one doing their part including consumer, business and government. Zero waste means many things to different people. To consumers, zero waste means maximizing recycling efforts and putting less into the trash. To waste collection and recycling service providers, zero waste means finding and using the most cost effective and environmentally sound methods for collecting, processing, marketing and disposal of society’s wastes. To product manufacturers, zero waste can mean a complete review of their manufacturing process to identify ways to reduce waste and to make their products more recyclable. And, for government, zero waste is a goal for the future which requires realistic planning and investment. Bottom line is we need to use the resources we have and truly live in abundance as opposed to be drowning in trash.
What do you feel is the most important environmental concern we are currently facing?
Global Warming and Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Increasingly cities have become wise to the need for wide-scale recycling of plastics, glass, paper and even electronics. In the meantime, in many areas, textile-recycling facilities have not blossomed in quite the same way. A new report from the EPA however, emphasizes that textiles are an important source of greenhouse gas emissions, and that even at its current level, the recycling of clothing equivalent of taking one million cars off the road each year. It all comes back to an educated consumer. We’re educating the public that textiles are among the most recyclable items in their home and the most under used.
Find out more about SpinGreen at the website: http://spingreen.com