If you’ve been following the MET Gala, you’ve actually seen what recycled plastic bottles look like as fabric — albeit on social media. This year, Emma Watson wore a black-and-white off shoulder dress made out of recycled plastic bottles, and finally, the internet broke for a good cause. Designed by Calvin Klein and Eco Age, Emma Watson’s dress brought environmental concerns to the forefront of fashion, art, and social media, and showed the public that recycling is both possible and stylish.
Why is this important? Disposable products are being churned out by the billions, and we use them every day, including that styrofoam box the nasi padang aunty packed your food in. The problem with disposable products is that they are not biodegradable; this means, it can never truly disappear off the face of the earth. (Unless we burn it, which causes pollution! And bad news — even biodegradable products take years to go away.)
One solution is to recycle plastic into comfortable and wearable fabric; it cleans up the environment, and saves the energy and oil needed to make a new batch of polyester. Yup, listen up designers-to-be and future fashion mavens, you can run a business and still be green. It’s available in Singapore too!
We talk to Monique Maissan, the founder and CEO of Waste 2 Wear, a pro-environment company which recycles plastic bottles into wearable fabric, about the possibilities of fabric made out of recycled bottles and the issues surrounding recycling.
Hi Monique, tell us a bit about Waste 2 Wear.
I formed Waste 2 Wear in 2009, when I first came across the invention that could turn plastic bottles into yarn. However, these were thick and dark yarns which can only be used for toy stuffings, carpets, and thick fleeces. I wanted to bring this technology into the mainstream textile industry, so we launched an intensive research and development process. After years of trial and errors and investments, we can now produce beautiful combinations of viscoses, cottons, wools and even silks!
How wonderful and heartening to hear! What is the process like?
After gathering plastic bottles from our clients, and countries like China and India — that’s where our production facilities are — these bottles are stripped of caps and labels, thoroughly cleaned, and processed into flakes. These flakes are then transformed into small pellets of pure recycled plastic, which will be extruded into yarn. The end product is 100% recycled polyester yarn, which can be made into any colour you need it to be.
Waste 2 Wear supply these yarns and ready-made products worldwide, to about 17 different countries (and growing!). To Singapore, we have supplied companies including SAVEUR, for their chef’s aprons, and the CHIJ schools, for bags and some school garments. We are hoping to supply a large uniform company soon, and are working with hotels and other brands for uniforms, curtains, bathrobes and pillows.
What did you think of Emma Watson’s MET Gala dress?
It’s absolutely a great way to educate as these celebrities have a lot of influence. They can use their stardom to change mindsets. I wished that more celebrities would lead by example, because so many more people can be doing this — if only they were aware of the possibilities and impact!
But you don’t have to be a celebrity. As an employer or designer, even dressing your own employees and consumers in garments made from a mix of recycled polyester and cotton, instead of just normal polyester or cotton, can create a real and large awareness. These people will then look at other ways to save energy and other waste!
Some naysayers say recycling the plastic bottles are in fact more, if not equally, damaging to the environment. What is your opinion on this?
That is totally untrue. These plastics will not end up in our landfills and rivers! We have scientific evidence that it not only helps to clean up the environment and existing waste, but also actively reduces the amount of energy used in the process by 60% to 70%, and reduces carbon emission by more than 65% on average, as compared to making virgin polyester.
Is there a wrong way to recycle?
A lot of companies see the growing popularity of green products, but do not want to invest in them, so they green-wash, which is to publicise only the “good” areas of their process. If you look closely, they might be using carbon-unfriendly ways to making garments out of trash, such as transporting them with trucks and boats to a processing plant far away, and therefore increasing carbon footprint. They might be using a sexy story for publicity, but they are not really doing this to save the environment.
Also, please understand that it takes consumers and shoppers actively buying something recycled, to be part of the solution. This creates a pull — the business will grow, prices will go down, and the planet will improve. So get more people to do this, such as choosing curtains, pillows and upholstery made from recycled fabric.
Lastly, what can the Singapore government do to make recycling easier for citizens?
The government in Singapore is, unfortunately, not really educating enough. Singapore actually burns 80% of its waste instead of recycling it! Burning creates energy but also pollution, and is less valuable than if you up-cycle it into a product of higher value. It would be great if the government can lead by example, by looking into the uniforms of local uniformed groups. This is something we are now working on with the Malaysian government, and we hope to have a deal this year to be able to dress their whole police force!
What do you think about buying products made from recycled materials? Tell us here : Nookmag