When life gives you trash, make haute couture.

This is what will take place next Thursday night during the second annual Blue Wrap Project Runway fashion show.

But this isn’t any old trash taking a turn on the catwalk — this event uses the disposal medical product known as blue wrap. Hospitals across Maine and the United States use blue wrap to sterilize surgical instruments and then throw it away.

The Scarborough-based nonprofit Partners for World Health collects discarded but still usable medical supplies and distributes them to Third World countries. It gets about 15 garbage bags filled with blue wrap each week.

“We do not recycle this to Third World countries because of their trash problems in the developing world,” said Elizabeth McLellan, a nurse and founder of Partners for World Health.

McLellan said health-care facilities in developing countries do what hospitals in the U.S. used to do — use reusable white cotton towels to sterilize instruments.

“Blue wrap is used one time and tossed, and it doesn’t break down in a landfill,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how much blue wrap is generated every day in hospitals in our country.”

To call attention to the problem of medical waste and to raise funds for the charity, McLellan and her army of volunteers came up with the idea to put this durable fabric on the catwalk last year.

The inaugural event was such a success, it sold out the Portland Museum of Art’s auditorium, where it was standing-room only. To accommodate more people, this year’s show will take place at USM’s Abromson Community Education Center, where Hannaford Hall can seat close to 500 people.

More than 20 designers from Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts will create original garments to show on the runway, including Erika Smith, known for her work with Miss Maine contestants; and Michelle Arnold, who is designing a dress for McLellan to model based on one Audrey Hepburn wore in the 1954 film “Sabrina.”

Other models include USM President Selma Botman and well-known Realtor John Hatcher. All the money raised at the event will support Partners for World Health’s efforts to deliver medical supplies to developing nations.

“This is a 100-percent volunteer nonprofit, including myself,” McLellan said. “We have over 800 hours of volunteer time a month.”

Last year, the nonprofit sent more than 100,000 pounds of medical supplies overseas. A shipment of 60,000 pounds of supplies will soon head to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and Senegal.

Volunteers either hand-carry the supplies in their luggage (at their own expense), or the organization arranges to piggyback on container shipments going to countries in need.

As the number of health-care facilities donating supplies to the organization grows, so does its need for storage space. Currently, Partners for World Health has 40,000 square feet of storage space at facilities in Scarborough, Portland and Rockland, and is looking for additional warehouse space in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

“We’re actually helping to lower the cost of hospital’s disposal fees,” McLellan said. “We’re saving them money, because they pay by the ton (for waste disposal).”

So far, one hospital, Waldo County General, has acknowledged the benefit the nonprofit provides by agreeing to help sponsor the fundraiser.

The party begins with a cocktail reception featuring jazz music from Hot Lunch Bebop. Around 7 p.m., the crowd will head into the auditorium for the show, which will be emceed by Erin Ovalle, morning news anchor on WMTW-Channel 8.

Once again, the event will feature a Blue Wrap Boutique, where party guests can purchase small items made with blue wrap such as passport holders, tote bags, table runners and tooth fairy pillows.

But don’t expect any sneak peeks of the fashions during the cocktail reception or in advance of the party.

“No one gets to see anything until the show,” McLellan said. “It’s a surprise.”

Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:

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Twitter: AveryYaleKamila