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Landfill Dzine Helps the Unrecyclable Problem

Jan 02, 2015 01:18AM ● By Brandi Barnett

Trash to Treasure

January 2015
By Fache Desrochers
Photos: Christi Canafax


What is it that makes an effective problem solver? Intelligence and a propensity towards logic, for a start. And tenacity, that’s important, too. But solutions are tricky things: elusive, and often difficult to discover in the face of a pressing difficulty. As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” So perhaps the skill that truly makes a problem solver is creativity: the ability to come up with solutions that are outside the box, to imagine a way forward when everything looks like a dead end.

The field of waste management and recycling is one that is in real need of effective problem solvers. Landfill space continues to fill up at an alarming rate, and although most municipalities have incorporated productive recycling programs, material (such as Styrofoam) that is largely unrecyclable remains widely used. This sort of problem is daunting, and it is tempting to label it as unsolvable. But fortunately, there are people in the industry like Heather Carpenter, who is intelligent, tenacious, creative and determined to make recycling and upcycling the rule rather than the exception.

Carpenter is the mind behind Landfill Dzine, a company that reuses unrecyclable materials to make fashion-forward, wearable products. Unlike recycling – the process of turning waste into a reusable product – upcycling turns waste material or unwanted products into something new, and of better quality. Landfill Dzine was formed when Carpenter’s Selma-based recycling center workplace began taking on a material whose disposal had been plaguing farmers for years:

Lay-Flat irrigation hose. This thick, flat, heavy hose is made from an intermingled combination of rubber, poly and nylon. Although it is used in almost all irrigation, there is no way to recycle it due to its unique three-part composition. Furthermore, this composition makes the material essentially indestructible. Like most things that are considered unrecyclable, Lay-Flat can be buried in a landfill for decades without decomposing one bit. “It’s pretty much an immortal material,” says Carpenter. “So the goal is to use up Lay-Flat by incorporating it into products that people would actually want, because there is really nothing else to do with it other than let it take up space in a landfill for eternity.”

This makes excellent sense: If a material is indestructible, the ideal solution is to keep putting it to work. Initially, Carpenter cleverly took the bulk of the Lay-Flat hoses that her company had received and baled them into large building blocks, which she used to create bunkers to separate the different types of materials that the recycling yard takes in. But Carpenter was still convinced that a higher design application awaited this indestructible medium, and she set about repurposing Lay-Flat into purses. This pursuit turned out to be a bit of an uphill battle, as it took some time to find a manufacturing company that would sew the material. “Most places wouldn’t even take the material as a donation,” says Carpenter. “They insisted that it was useless.” But Carpenter was characteristically undaunted, and proceeded to not only design an entire line that boasts Lay-Flat in every piece, but also to persist until she found a company that was willing to manufacture her vision. Carpenter’s realized designs prove her efforts were well spent. The purses are elegant, on trend and unrecognizable as upcycled agricultural products. Lay-Flat is combined with leather in one piece, and with woven bamboo in another. Still another is a delight of modern design, with a boxy shape and sleek perforations. And Carpenter’s designs are not restricted to handbags. The Landfill Dzine line also boasts belts, wine bags, bracelets and flip-flops. “The flip-flops were especially difficult to get right,” says Carpenter. “We went through probably 12 different manufacturers before we found one that could make a design I was satisfied with.”

Among a line of thoughtful creations, this footwear is particularly special. And not just because of Carpenter’s careful vetting of the final product, but because Landfill Dzine has created an opportunity for organizations to sell flip-flops for their own fundraisers. This fundraiser option redefines the concept of “green” money, as any organization can sell Landfill Dzine’s flip-flops and receive a gross profit of 40 percent from the price of each pair sold. In this way, funds are raised while landfill space is saved. “We are trying to solve a problem, one design at a time,” says Carpenter.

Indeed. One beautiful, sustainable, solution-oriented design at a time.


Landfill Dzine  • (559) 891-1885 •