A plastic bottle thrown into a Taipei recycling bin could be reincarnated as a blanket to warm disaster victims in any of 20 countries, thanks to a unique project by the world’s largest Buddhist charity.
The Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation has been taking plastic bottles from the waste stream of Taipei, a city of 2.6 million, for three years to convert them into about 244,000 polyester blankets intended for disaster zones. It has sent volunteers with relief supplies to some of the world’s biggest disasters, including Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 and last year’s devastating Sichuan earthquake in China.
This week, Tzu Chi expanded its one-of-a-kind recycling effort to begin making shirts, scarves and cloth shopping bags. It sends the plastic bottles to a factory that breaks them down into a polyester fabric, which is then sent to crew of volunteers who fashion it into blankets or garments.
“They’re faster than a normal factory because they’re driven by kind-heartedness,” said lead volunteer Wu Yueh-yin, as more than 100 others cut, stitched, folded and boxed the grey polyester fabric into blankets and scarves for the next crisis.
Here’s a video from Tzu Chi USA called “Green is the new Black” on the foundation’s use of recycled plastic bottles: