MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan is known for the Great Lakes, but with threats from invasive species and pollution, one man from Muskegon decided to use his company to give back to the lakes that he calls home.
Jackson Riegler grew up just minutes away from Pere Marquette Beach in Muskegon. He remembers spending most of his time on the beach and in Lake Michigan.
“I was lucky enough to have this be a huge part of my childhood, growing up near Lake Michigan,” Riegler said. “It was always super important to who I was from the time I was a young kid.”
Now, Riegler is using his company, Oshki, to give back to the lakes he loves. He creates t-shirts, hats and other apparel using recycled plastics found on beaches throughout the state.
“We’ve been able through our efforts and through our sales to remove over 5,000 pounds of plastic waste from the US, with a portion of that from our Great Lakes Beach cleanups,” Riegler said.
He started Oshki as a project when he was a senior in high school. He decided to turn it into something more after heading to college at the University of Michigan.
“I was really empowered by the University of Michigan to rethink what I was doing and make more of a specific impact on the issue at hand,” Riegler said.
He used an organization called OptiMize, through the university, to help get the company started and fund his product’s development. Now graduated, he is putting all of his time towards Oshki.
“I didn’t ever think that I would get as much support as I did and to be able, now as a graduate, to pursue this full time,” Riegler said. “I really didn’t think that that was possible at the time.”
Riegler works with companies across the country to get his products made. First, he organizes beach cleanups around the state, gathering trash and recyclable plastics. After that’s done, those materials go to a recycling center that cleans and sanitizes the plastic. That plastic then gets sent to one of the company’s partners in North Carolina, where it’s turned into yarn.
“It’s broken down into little plastic pellets and then it’s spun into polyester yarn and once that process is done, it’s really like a fabric sort of material,” Riegler said.
Riegler hopes to have the whole process done in state in the future. But first, he wants products that are completely made from recycled plastics found on Michigan beaches. Right now, his materials are mostly from Michigan, but they also contain recycled plastic from other states as well.
“This is a brand that focuses in West Michigan, does work in West Michigan and I think that is important to support on its own,” Riegler said.
The company donates 5% of all proceeds to non-profits that help to preserve the Great Lakes. Riegler wants to continue partnering with local businesses and spread awareness of other organizations that help protect the lakes.
“Most of our products have a story where you can really see the impact that you’re making by supporting,” Riegler said.
Riegler hopes to remove more than 100,000 pounds of plastic waste from Michigan beaches by 2025.