LOS ANGELES — The material that automakers use to make airbags is what Rewilder co-founder Jenny Silbert considers a treasure. Once the auto industry disposes of the leftovers, her company turns them into outdoor furniture and bags.
"This has already been cleaned and rehabilitated, so when we get this material, it's pretty trashed, and we put a lot of love and a lot of labor into actually cleaning it up," Silbert explained.
Silbert and her co-founder Stephanie Choi believe there is wealth in waste.
It's estimated that the auto industry alone trashes 100,000 tons of material per year.
So Rewilder diverts post-industrial, non-recyclable materials from landfills and upcycles them to create beautiful zero-waste fashion products.
"We really want to inspire people to use and reuse the materials that are already here instead of making and buying new," Choi said.
Rewilder is in a program with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, or LACI for short.
LACI is leading efforts to create an inclusive green economy in Los Angeles. Their incubator program helps sustainable startups gain access to capital and scale, especially for underrepresented communities such as women and people of color. LACI's President and CEO Matt Petersen says those groups face barriers in the industry, and they want to break them down.
"Venture capital world is very white male and it's tough to break into and banks require a lot of personal collateral if you need financing so if you don't own a home or you've already leveraged the home you already have, you need other ways to get access to capital," Petersen said.
The resources provided by LACI will greatly help Rewilder expand its mission to upcycle the mass amount of material wasted every year that contributes to overflowing landfills.
"The dream would be any company that's making materials that are not recyclable or end up in a landfill, that we would be able to help divert them and design them into something new. And that allows us to grow and allows us to grow our impact," Silbert said.
They're creating a solution to the environmental and climate crises by shifting the mindset of companies — large and small — and everyday citizens by showing them that it's important to consume less and reuse instead of making new.