Thread, the Pittsburgh enterprise that’s spinning fabric out of garbage collected off the streets of Haiti, has launched its first two products.

Moop in Carnegie, which makes a line of sturdy, handcrafted handbags, has joined the Thread endeavor. The design studio is lining two of its backpacks with green fabric made from 100% polyester, post consumer recycled plastic bottles.

“We like to source materials that have a history or story to them,” says Wendy Downs, owner of Moop. “Our waxed canvas originally was created by long shore fishermen (in Maine.) Thread is the kind of story that made sense to us.”

Moop’s five person team designs and manufactures all its bags in-house. The special edition packs—the Messenger #1 and Paperback—are co-branded with a Thread label and a tag that highlights the story of Thread. Moop sells its bags online.

As for Thread, the product launch marks a celebratory milestone.

“As a group and team we’ve had a lot of small wins, but this feels like a really big one,” says Ian Rosenberger, founder of Thread. “We’re really excited to be taking stuff that started out as a health risk and turning it into not just an elegant finished good, but serving communities we believe in.”

More Thread products are in the pipeline, he adds. In the not-to-distant future, Thread hopes to announce a partnership with a dressmaker and shoe manufacturer.

The story of Thread began in 2011 after Rosenberger visited the country, shortly after the major earthquake that devastated the country. He started Thread as a way to not only reduce the mounds of garbage that posed a serious health threat, but provide jobs for unemployed Haitians.

Since then, Thread has collected 70 million plastic bottles through a partnership with Ramese Lajon— Haitian Kreyol for “picking up money.” More than 1,300 Haitians are employed in the collection of recycled trash.

The trash is then melted into flakes and shipped to the United States where it is funneled, melted again and filtered into strands and spun into spools. Thread is supported by the Idea Foundry and the Urban Redevelopment Authority and is a certified B-Corp.

The organization plans to expand its model to communities all over the world, says Rosenberger, beginning in Honduras, West Africa and the Middle East.

“Customers are demanding more responsible goods,” he says. “There’s no reason why a little company from Pittsburgh can’t be on the forefront of that.”

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared...