The New Norm: Success Story

Awardee – FORGE Product Development Grant

Samples of the New Norm’s fabric

The U.S. uses 7.4 billion Solo cups per year. That’s a lot of cups in landfills. Even if they do end up in a recycling bin, they can’t be turned into new materials. In fact, the U.S. lacks the infrastructure to recycle many types of plastic, not just Solo cups. If you’ve ever turned over a plastic cup and looked at the little number on the bottom, #5, #6, and #7 rarely actually get recycled. The New Norm is a startup with an environmental and social mission to directly address this issue. They recycle plastics into sustainable yarns and fabrics, specifically plastics that can’t currently be recycled in the U.S.

Lauren Choi, Founder and CEO of The New Norm, started developing this technology while she was attending Johns Hopkins University. Surrounded by red Solo cups, she created a way to turn them into her first signature textile using machinery she built in her garage.

Now, after years of lab testing and product development, The New Norm is ready for the next step. Choi says that they are at a tipping point where they’re looking to shift from lab scale to larger-scale commercial production. The FORGE Product Development Grant funding will allow The New Norm to try out their textile production at a larger scale and address all of the challenges that come with that process.

Lauren Choi, founder and CEO of The New Norm, poses in a dress made out of fabric from recycled Solo cups

This tranche of funding from FORGE was focused on supporting female and non-binary led cleantech startups. Choi says that since graduating and pursuing The New Norm full time, she hasn’t seen a lot of support specifically aimed at female founders. “There aren’t many people who look like me when I go to conferences and talk to different manufacturers,” she says, speaking about her experience in the male-dominated manufacturing industry. The New Norm is completely grant-funded. As a female founder, this grant is particularly exciting for her and her startup.

This is the first time The New Norm has worked with FORGE and Choi says they are very excited to move forward with FORGE’s support.

“I read the grant description and thought, ‘This is perfect,” said Choi. “I think it’s great that there’s something out there supporting this specific group, especially in textiles. I’m excited.”

By the numbers

  • 7.4 billion Solo cups are used in the US annually and can’t be recycled
  • By recycling 1 ton of ocean plastics, we:
    • prevent 1742 lbs of carbon emissions, according to the EPA
    • save 21 cubic meters of landfill