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Lauren Choi was a materials engineering student at Johns Hopkins University in 2018 when she learned that the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to recycle most of its plastic.
That problem “inspired a great sense of urgency,” Choi said, so she set out to build a machine in her garage that could turn plastic — like the Solo cups so ubiquitous at college parties — into something less disposable: clothing. That first machine spun those cups into filament, and Choi weaved them into fabric samples that could eventually be made into dresses, shirts and tote bags.
Today, Choi runs the New Norm, a sustainable materials company that turns typically unrecyclable plastics — from cups to old fishing nets — into yarns and fabrics. Its clients are clothing manufacturers, and it is currently working with with Georgetown’s Halcyon Incubator, a residency fellowship for social enterprises, to help scale its technology.