325: An Umbrella Made from Ocean-Bound Plastic, with Deirdre Horan, Dri
(For show notes and a full transcript, see https://tonyloyd.com/deirdre-horan).
Dri produces durable, fashionable, and environmentally sustainable umbrellas from ocean-bound plastic.
As a fifteen year-old, Deirdre Horan left her comfortable home in Acton, Massachusetts to join a youth group traveling to Gulfport, Mississippi. This was two years after Hurricane Katrina, and the community continued to struggle.
“What really struck me was the level of devastation that was still there two years later,” Deirdre explains. “It takes much longer than the initial relief to pick lives back up. People will always need assistance if they’ve been impacted. I saw at a young age that something can always be done for somebody.”
Deirdre continued to travel back to Gulfport year after year. But she also thought of how she could make a greater impact.
A shift in plans
In 2017, Deirdre watched a documentary, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic. In the film, Captain Charles Moore made a comment that stuck with her. “He said something like, ‘The oceans to a degree help clean itself out. We need to address the amount that’s flowing in,’” Dierdre explains.
“I went down a black hole, researching recycling. I learned that plastic bottles could be upcycled into polyester.
“One day I was walking to work and my umbrella flipped inside out. I was wet, discouraged, and angry. I threw the umbrella in the trash can. I checked the tag. It was made with polyester yarn. The wheels started turning. I realized that I didn’t know who made any umbrella, let alone an eco-friendly umbrella.”
That’s when the idea came for an umbrella made from ocean-bound plastic.
“I ran around telling everybody I knew about this idea. And then, I realized that I had to buckle down and do some research. One of the biggest hurdles was finding someone who could make it ethically.
“I vetted multiple companies before I made my decision.”
The world produces 380 million tons of plastic every year. Much of that is for single-use.
But what about recycling? Much of the plastic that is gathered for recycling is sent to countries with weak environmental laws and poor waste management systems. According to Deirdre Horan of Dri, over 17 billion pounds of plastic flows into the ocean every year. That’s more than one garbage truck per minute.
In many of these low-income countries, waste pickers will pick up ocean-bound plastic and bring it to recycling centers. That plastic is pelletized and can be spun into yarn and polyester.
Dri umbrellas are created from upcycled ocean-bound plastic. The handles are made from fast-growing bamboo, and the shafts are stainless steel, which is recyclable.
Learn More About Deirdre Horan and Dri
Dri on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dri_umbrellas
Dri on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DriUmbrellas
Vice Documentary, Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic: https://youtu.be/D41rO7mL6zM
First Founders: https://firstfounders.org