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A towering Paul Bunyan is dressed for success with duds from donated items

Old things into new

Bonded Logic Inc., for example, turns old jeans into housing insulation that is sold in Menards. Nike makes stretchy pants from recycled polyester and makes running tracks from ground-up sneaker bottoms. In Minnesota, Bro-Tex Inc. in St. Paul, Miller Waste Mills in Winona and other manufacturers convert clothes, sheets, tablecloths and carpet into new industrial rags, oil filters, carpets or booms that can sop up factory spills. Autumn Boos, marketing director for Bro-Tex, said the processing of old clothes and carpets has created 16 permanent jobs at the company’s North Hampden Avenue location, where donations from the public are accepted. Bro-Tex’s full operation includes 90 workers and a separate business that makes wipes and paper towels from new and recycled materials. In all, Bro-Tex keeps 1 million pounds of debris from landfills each year, said Boos, who applauded the MPCA’s display. “It’s wonderful that the exhibit will help bring [attention] to the need to use recycled materials and to recycle, reuse and reduce waste,” Boos said. “We need to be smarter with our resources. They are really valuable.” Beginning Thursday, the fair’s Eco Exhibit will have sturdy benches (made of baled jeans) where fair goers can sit, take a load off their feet and admire other environmentally focused displays. There’s a Re-Fashionista booth, a “Fix or Mend it” booth and volunteers who will demonstrate how to get extra life from outfits, products or appliances. The “Think Before You Buy” booth encourages buying quality, durable goods that can last years. Avoid cheap, trendy things that only last one season, McCurdy said. To illustrate the idea, she asked for help from Duluth Pack. Last week, officials from the Duluth-based outdoor gear firm zipped a crane to the top of the Eco building and outfitted Paul Bunyan with one of its Paul Bunyan Canvas Packs — a high-quality backpack known to last years. “They have backpacks that are literally 100 years old,” McCurdy said. “Buy Minnesota. Buy quality. It really works.”

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