Fri May 13, 2011

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EcoErek collecting denim, shoes in 2011 recycling effort

Published May 13, 2011 by The Press

For those who have been saving up your old, worn jeans in the hopes that “EcoErek” Hansen will be holding his annual denim drive this year – it’s time to pack them up and drop them off at one of the local collection events or drop-off boxes.

And this year, the Jerusalem Township youth will also be collecting shoes of any size, type or condition.

Erek’s Denim Drive recycling project started after he read an article in his National Geographic Kids magazine two years ago seeking donated denim to be recycled into insulation to benefit communities hit by natural disasters. The results of his 2009 Denim Drive led to a visit to the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and participation in the Guinness World Record ceremony for the “Largest Collection of Clothing to Recycle.”

In 2009, he collected 1,685 items, saving 2,815 pounds of cotton from the landfill. The donations were recycled into enough insulation for just over three houses.

In 2010, 4,154 items were collected – 6,041 pounds of cotton – enough insulation for more than eight houses. His 2011 denim collection goal is 5,000 items. If he achieves this goal, he will have collected 10,000 pairs of jeans in three summers – not bad for a 10-year-old.

“Cotton. From Blue to Green” directs the process that converts the donated denim to raw cotton fiber, and ultimately remanufactures it into UltraTouchTM Natural Fiber Insulation. One hundred percent of the insulation is then donated to homeowners looking to rebuild after a flood, tornado or other natural disaster. Learn more at if you’d like.

Erek has been approved once again in 2011 to partner with Cotton. From Blue to Green, as well as USAgain (pronounced use-again).

“We have partnered with them because Erek wanted to be able to keep old shoes out of the landfill as well and the NIKE Reuse-a-shoe program was not available to us this year,” said Erek’s mom, Amy. “ The recycled shoes can be ground down and used to make synthetic turf, playgrounds, running tracks, tennis courts, rubber mats, etc. We will be able to send any kind of shoe to USAgain, not just athletic shoes.”

“We also want to give a sincere thank you to our shipping sponsor, First Solar,” Amy said. “Their continued support allows Erek to concentrate on collecting his recycled goods and not having to raise money to ship the textiles out. This is a key factor in the success of Erek’s EcoDrive.”

Denim & Shoe Drives will be held June 4 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Town Center at Levis Commons, Perrysburg (in front of the cinemas); and June 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Future Wave, 3324 Navarre Ave., Oregon.

Public drop boxes are located at the Future Wave and at Dr. Stephen Branam’s dental office, 3140 Dustin Rd., Oregon (office hours only).

For more information, visit or follow him on Facebook at

Anyone interested in holding a drive for either denim or shoes at his or her workplace this May/June, can download the flyer at “Your company name will be posted on our website and in our newsletter,” Amy said. “And we can coordinate a drop off/pick up of your collected items.”

Ten-year-old Erek Hansen, of Jerusalem Township, has become known as “EcoErek,” thanks to his ongoing recycling efforts.