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The Future is in Plastics — Only Better

Jonathan Wayne is the man behind Dirt Republic. If his vision pans out, you and I will be wearing plastic when we ride. Not plastic body armor and helmets, but shirts made from recycled water bottles.

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The Dirt Republic is a new company making mountain bike shirts from recycled water bottles. Courtesy photo
The Dirt Republic is a new company making mountain bike shirts from recycled plastic water bottles. Courtesy photo

I just want to say one word to you — just one word.

Are you listening?

Plastics.

What do I mean?

There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Shhh! Enough said.

Quoting movie lines, ones four decades old at that, is the last refuge of a lazy writer.

But whether you’re old enough to know what film those lines came from or young enough to not have a friggin’ clue (or care), couple things are for certain: Young or old we’ve all junked a ton of plastic in our time, which means that 42 years after those lines were delivered they hold true today…

The future is, indeed, in plastics — but only different. Just ask Jon Wayne. (No, not John Wayne, he’s moseyed off to movie star heaven.)

Plastic Shirts?

What the hell does talk of film and polymers have to do with cycling? Is plastic the next “it” material after carbon fiber?

Jonathan Wayne is the man behind Dirt Republic. If his vision pans out, you and I will be wearing plastic when we ride. Not plastic body armor and helmets, but plastic shirts.

Dirt Republic’s shirts, the first model is the DR.1, are made from all those water bottles we junk — 60 million go into our landfills everyday, Wayne says. While Patagonia, Cannondale, and a few other environmentally conscious apparel makers are using recycled materials in some of their products, Dirt Republic is decidedly more grassroots.

Grassroots in every aspect: Nashua, New Hampshire-based Dirt Republic is set on keeping it green in both materials and manufacturing as well as keeping itself small until you and I start buying their stuff big time.

The first line of Dirt Repubic's shirts is the DR1 long-sleeve.
The first line of Dirt Repubic's shirts is the DR1 long-sleeve.

“Right now we are building a brand new business on sustainability, not trying to build sustainability into an existing business model,” Wayne says. “To start with this means creating performance products from recycled pre- and post-consumer waste. Tomorrow we hope it means operating a model that has a zero-carbon impact and creating environmental and biking projects that help the local communities.”

Wonder Fabric

At the heart of Dirt Republic’s wares is something that could arguably be called a wonder fabric — Repreve. Why more companies aren’t using Repreve, made by a company called Unifi out of North Carolina, is a mystery as the material is made from recycled plastic water bottles. Using Repreve, Wayne says, accomplishes a number of goals set for Dirt Republic.

Polyester and nylon — main ingredients in much of our performance cycling clothing — are manufactured from gasoline, which is refined from crude oil, explains Wayne. By going with a material produced from recycled waste there is less need to extract more raw materials.

Repreve begins as used plastic bottles. The bottles are then washed, crushed and chopped into tiny flakes. Those are melted and extruded to create fine strands of fiber. The fiber is crimped, cut, drawn and stretched into a desired length for strength, then baled. The baled fiber is then processed into fabric and made into various types of apparel.

Unifi makes two versions of the recycled plastic, says Wayne, one from post- and pre-consumer waste and one from pure post-consumer waste — all bottles.

The DR1 line also includes a short-sleeved shirt.
The DR1 line also includes a short-sleeved shirt.

“Both are critical,” Wayne says. “Even though it’s the plastic bottles that tug at peoples emotions, reality is it’s super important to stop both pre- and post-waste going into landfills. Right now we use both [Repreve] materials.”

Home Grown

The ultimate vision for Dirt Republic is to keep its impact small, whether or not the company goes big time. All of the company’s manufacturing and production is located in close proximity to one another in the U.S. That, Wayne says, will allow for tighter quality control and minimizes environmental impacts from transportation if the clothing was made overseas.

“Our goal is to have everything made in the USA. The verdict is out whether this is affordable long-term, but we are going to give it our best effort,” Wayne says. “Right now the bottles are gathered in the USA. The fiber and fabric is made in the USA. The shirts are produced in the USA. The decals are made in the USA and even the tags are made in the USA.

“Again this is nothing against overseas,” he says. “It’s just that local production means less waste in transportation. It is cool for the economy as well.”

Wayne says it takes 15 plastic bottles to make one performance shirt. After a year of development, Dirt Republic has kept more than a few bottles from going into landfills and has unveiled its first mountain bike shirt series — the DR1.

Along with blue and black, short and longsleeved DR1 shirts, Wayne says there are plans for a crimson DR1 and then a women’s DR1 line. On the drawing board is the DR2 line, which will have zips and pockets.

“We also have the ability to do recycled shorts in the future, once we get a little more established,” he says.

The Dirt Republic Web site says that “fabrics made from recycled fiber are functionally identical to those made from non-recycled fiber.” Meaning you get the same wicking, strength, softness, shrinkage-resistance and color-fastness.

We here at Sinlgetrack.com are waiting for a test shirt to arrive so we can put Wayne’s product through its paces. From the sound of it, there could be a great future in plastics. We’ll let you know.