Three Surprising Uses of Recycled Plastics Making Headlines at the Summer’s Biggest Sporting Events

Female athlete sprinting

This summer many of the world’s greatest athletes will be on display… plus some unique contributions to sustainability made possible by recycled plastics. Here are three surprising ways that recycled plastics are making headlines.

1. Beach Sculpture

A Brazilian artist created a sculpture of the iconic rings and installed it on the world-famous Copacabana Beach. Why has this work of art received so much attention from tourists, locals, and reporters? The sculpture is made with recycled plastics from used beverage bottles and was designed to raise environmental awareness. The sculpture contains more than 140 pounds of recycled plastics. “Selfies” with the sculpture are a big hit on social media.

Aerial view of famous Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

2. Uniforms

Fabrics made with plastic fibers (nylon, polyester, spandex, etc.) are ideal for summer athletic uniforms because they are lightweight, quick-drying, and can help wick away sweat. What’s surprising is that uniform maker Nike has actually incorporated recycled plastics into its high-performance gear, including uniforms worn by many soccer teams competing this summer at the highest levels of competition. According to the company, each uniform kit is made with an average of 18 recycled plastic bottles and “Since 2010, more than three billion plastic bottles have been diverted from landfills and converted into recycled polyester for Nike performance products.”

Wide angle soccer stadium with snow and rain and soccer players happy after victory. The players wear unbranded soccer uniform

3. Medal Ribbons

Several media outlets also have noted that the gold, silver, and bronze medals got a bit of a makeover this year, focused on improved sustainability. The best athletes will receive medals that among other changes will now hang from ribbons made with recycled plastic bottles. The bottles are cleaned, ground up, melted, and stretched into fibers that then are woven into beautiful fabrics.

Female athlete standing in floodlit athletics stadium wearing gold medal

It’s heartening to know that everyday plastics can continue to add benefits in their in their next life and are making headlines for their contributions to sustainability.