Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet

First World Trash Logo
Queens, NY

Where others see trash, First World Trash (FWT) sees possibilities.  FWT is an innovative, blossoming, socially responsible, zero waste bag and accessory company.  We offer one-of-a-kind, stylish, eco-friendly accessories by re-using materials that would otherwise contribute to a landfill, such as billboards, automobile seatbelts, tents, and bicycle inner tubes. This waste tends to be out of our collective awareness and abundant.  For example, the advertising industry continues to send 10,000 tons of commercial vinyl billboards to landfills annually.  This material does not breakdown, it literally fills landfills around the world.  We provide free recycling to this industry and bring a unique, high quality product to market as a result.  We do not manufacture any new material and do not create a new waste stream.  We are cleaning up the current waste management streams by “remanufacturing” unconventional materials with a process that is not energy intensive, create new waste or by products, and creates local employment opportunities for artists within our community as our products are hand-made. 

Wine bag
CBS interview at the
New York City Green Festival
How our products are made.

Unlike other major “green” companies, our process of remanufacturing does not leave a manufacturing footprint! From the early stages of our remaking process to the end, we utilize human energy systems, not chemical or physical processes that create more trash and pollution.  Even our tags on the bag are made from cardboard and packaging our staff collects and an old stamp prints information on it.  For example, you might find a Premium Nabisco or some other type of packaging on one side and our stamped information about FWT on the inside of the tag.  Our displays at trade show events are also uniquely green in that we utilize “trash” to display our products.  We practice remanufacturing in every step – from marketing to production. 

We remanufacture what other’s consider trash into new products that people use daily – bags, computer cases, ipad sleeves, porfolios and the like.  Our intention is to influence how people think with the products they engage with on a daily basis.   We are pioneering a new path for otherwise unrecyclable materials and influencing other businesses and consumers to reconsider what they call trash.

We are a leader in consumer and business education in what is considered “green” within waste management.  We believe that consciousness awareness is critical to our hope of a larger movement in waste management.  We strive to change our systems via consumer education and hope to lead to public policy changes in waste management.

Today’s American consumer is increasingly interested in the impact of their dollar and look to support socially responsible companies.  As a for-profit, mission driven company, FWT promotes socially responsible consumer practices and educates buyers about spending practices.  Our consumers tend to be attracted to the style and art of our products first, only to learn about our creative environmental for-profit solution secondarily. This allows us to reach consumers who may not be interested or involved in traditional eco-products.  Our products are sold in stores that aren’t necessarily “eco” stores, such as Pylones, The Yarn Company, Blick Art and Supply, Philbrook Museum of Art, the New York Public Library Gift Shop and the Chelsea Wine Vault.  Once a consumer purchases our product, they are encouraged to learn about the waste management process.  Each product has an explanation of where it came from and our consumers are prompted to start asking: Who made this? Where does it come from? Where does it go? What other material can be re-used? Our intention is to reach consumers who would otherwise not consider purchasing a green products, let alone a zero waste product.

FWT educates larger corporations.  We will collect waste from any business interested in environmentally sustainable practices by providing free recycling. Companies like Manhattan Mini Storage, Degree Anti-Persperant, and many other have donated their expired advertising.  As we gather resources from a wide diversity of businesses, we educate them about the waste management process. 

Finally, we will always operate and contribute to the North American economy and contribute to the art and culture of Long Island City. Locally, we are within a community of like-minded companies and cultural institutions such as Socrates Sculpture Park, Noguchi Museum, Build It Green NYC, and Recycle-a–Bicycle among others.  As a member of this community, FWT is partnered with some (i.e. Socrates Sculpture Park donates their billboards for bags), has purchased from and is inspired by others.  Being a part of and contributing to this community feeds the larger green and socially responsible movement. 

We have come a long way from my first venture, which began by re-purposing a vinyl billboard into a tote with old car seatbelts as straps.  We have grown to re-use a more diverse selection of materials (tents, bicycle intertubes), design higher quality products, and offer more product choices. Since our inception, sales have multiplied each year and in just two years we are carried in over 50 stores in the U.S.  We have grown from offering 1 bag to 26 different products.  I have built a successful team and we are poised for significant growth.  With the help of this grant, FWT will be able to purchase equipment to work with more unconventional and difficult materials, such as stitching recycled bicycle innertubes to vinyl.  This type of equipment will help catapult a successful and innovative small business to the next level of success and provide socially responsible solutions to more consumers.

Jenelle Malbrough is a pioneer in the zero waste movement.  She has been heavily influenced by her depression-era grandmother’s values of thriftiness and conscious consumption.  She founded First World Trash in 2009 after she saw vinyl billboards being taken down and discarded.  She thought “I could do something with those” and hasn’t looked back since.

It is Jenelle’s goal to be a leader in a social movement toward zero waste recycling.  Most consumers do not consider sustainability isn’t as important as the newer, better, cheaper things that are being made endlessly, without regard for environmental and cultural repercussions.  Within the current economic context, people are once again interested not just in a product but where it comes from, who made it, and how it is made, in turn influencing business owners to consider sustainable alternatives.  It is Jenelle’s mission to revive sustainability and offer opportunities where zero waste products do not.