Trash to treasure: College students want to recycle plastic into snorkels

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Capital News Service

LANSING -– A group of Michigan State University graduates and students want to recycle plastic collected from lakes and oceans into snorkels, swimwear and other clothing.

Zach Scheid, a fifth-year senior majoring in supply chain management and entrepreneurship, is on the team that is passionate about protecting the environment. He grew up in St. Joseph on the shores of Lake Michigan.

The idea started from an assignment in an entrepreneurial class to develop a business and do extensive research to see if the company could succeed, he said. A classmate named Alex Windholz thought of the idea, and Scheid and four others teamed up with him.

“We all grew up on Lake Michigan and loved everything it had to offer,” Scheid said. “We wanted to develop a product that helps take care of our bodies of water and decreases our environmental footprint.”

The Rochester Institute of Technology estimates that 80% of the litter on Great Lakes shorelines is plastic debris, according to the Chicago Tribune. It found that 22 million pounds of plastic pollute the Great Lakes annually.

Plastics in the water run the risk of flowing into other states or even countries by drifting with the lake currents.

The team recognizes the importance of removing trash from the water, Scheid said. But it also wants to reuse that trash for products that are supposed to be in the oceans and lakes.

“One of our team members is an avid snorkeler, so that’s how we came up with the snorkel design, which is a retractable snorkel made out of recycled plastic,” Scheid said. “Our products would also include swimsuits for men and women, hats, shirts and sweatshirts.”

The company, named Tydal Aquatics, is in early stages of production. It has developed a 3D prototype of two snorkels, social media pages and a website. And in June it won $2,000 from “The Hatching,” a Lansing-based competition that supports and helps fund prospective businesses.

The group still needs substantial funding. And it is seeking professional help to create an injection mold to make the snorkels.

“We are all college students, so it’s going be hard for us to come up with thousands of dollars without having jobs,” Scheid said. “But I love the Great Lakes and oceans, and I want to protect them so generations to come can get the same experience as I did.”

Bryanna Idzior works for Great Lakes Echo.

Design of snorkel that entrepreneurs want to make from recycled plastic. Credit: Tydal Aquatics.

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