Making a business out of plastic waste

Junior Achievement’s OttoCycle Club recycles waste plastic bottles into ottomans. - Photo: Jewel Levy

A Junior Achievement team is turning plastic bottles into ottoman footstools in an effort to cut down on some of the waste going into the George Town landfill.

Justine Rhule, president of the Junior Achievement OttoCycle Club, says her team of 13 gives an alternative waste management solution to one of Cayman’s growing problems – plastic bottles.

“We produced ottoman footstools that can be used for rest and relaxation,” she said. “However, what makes our product so special is that on the inside it’s made of 100 percent recycled bottles that would otherwise be wasted at the landfill.”

Another great thing about the initiative, Ms. Rhule said, is 10 percent of proceeds from the sale of ottomans will go to Miss Nadine’s Pre-School.

Junior Achievement is an international, volunteer-based, nonprofit organization whose purpose is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. This is achieved through a six-month program where kids build and operate their own businesses as they would in the real world.

As soon as the students form their businesses, they must figure out how they will make and sell their product – in this case, ottomans – in order to make a profitable return.

“We came together and found a bunch of ideas off Pinterest; the ottomans were a result of that search,” Ms. Rhule said.

The ottomans come in various sizes and shapes. A set of bottles are stacked together and wrapped with tape, then insulated with foam to maintain the shape. Cardboard is placed on top and bottom of the taped bottles and colorful fabric, which is either hand sewn or machine stitched by the team, is stretched over the bottles to form the ottoman.

The fabric is sourced from around the island by the company’s overseer, Cayman Airways’ Joann West, and the bottles are sourced by the team from various sites.

This production process is overseen by Leah Robinson and Donjae Blake. Other members of the OttoCycle team are Paula Ann Thompson, Chloe Simms and Ashanti Reid.

“We are accepting any bottles with caps that are not being used, and we do ask for donations from the public. There is a drop-off point at Cayman Airways headquarters that the company sponsors,” Ms. Rhule said.

Upcoming sale days are at Red Sky at Night on Saturday, March 2, and the Agriculture Show on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Ottomans are priced from $15 to $25.