If you do not know already, the global use of plastic is expected to double in the next 20 years. That isn’t the most shocking fact. The jaw-dropping fact is that on a worldwide basis, only 14% of plastic is collected for recycling. 14% only, which compared to other materials — 58% of paper and up to 90% of iron and steel, is pretty darn shameful. I think that the main reason for this is that plastic is a cheap and versatile material. So although it has been shown to be detrimental to the environment, money seems to be the louder voice, for now.
The good news is that there are companies out there paving the way for a change. Racing towards making their products more sustainable, the following five companies have in the last couple of years seemed to have stayed true to their promise. Some might say that their efforts will not immediately solve the plastic waste problem, true, but their pledge to reduce use or reuse plastic is indeed better than doing nothing.
The global sportswear company, adidas, have not been shy about their commitment to using only recycled plastic by 2024. It is a pledge that covers everything, from sports bras to trainers. First reported in the Financial Times, adidas also announced that they would stop using virgin plastic in its offices, retail outlets, warehouses and distribution centres. A bold move by the German company, who stated that the change could save an estimated 40 tons of plastic per year, starting in 2018.
It looks like adidas is not the only sneaker company investing in the plastic evolution, Spanish brand Ecoalf, founded in 2010 by Javier Goyeneche, recently announced the launch of Shao sneakers. The new no-fuss footwear collection is made from recycled waste found in oceans and rivers. The Ecoalf process is quite simple. Working with fishermen along the coast of Spain to source the waste, then the shoe brand takes the discarded plastic and process it into a yarn. Before this happens, they first thoroughly clean the plastic which is then broken down into smaller parts and reduced to a polymer. Ecoalf then uses this raw material to create yarn for a range of different fabrics, including creating a black knitted upper sole that fits the wearer like a sock.
Looking to be part of the cleaner future movement, H&M has, for some time, been exploring how they can increase the possibilities of becoming a more sustainable fashion brand. Earlier this year, the Swedish high street brand 2018 collaborated with fashion brand to Aquafil, to design a collection made of Nylon that is 100% regenerated waste from landfills and the ocean. The first-grade nylon yarn known as ECONYL has been woven into a few pieces from the collection. It is a venture that supports clean oceans and shows how the latest technology can be incorporated into producing sustainable options for consumers.
When one thinks of Stella McCartney, 3 words that come to mind; Eco-friendly, Meat Free, Sustainability. The former creative director of Chloe worked with Parley for the Oceans on a range of adidas trainers back in 2017, and more recently she has been working with Bolt Threads. Believing in making clothing that is ethically created and built to last, Stella’s collaboration with biotechnology company Bolt Threads, might not be plastic related but together they are creating the next generation of advanced materials, that have so far included the creation of a one-of-a-kind custom dress made entirely of Bolt Microsilk™.
I remember back in 2015 writing about Amsterdam based brand G-Star raw partnership up with Bionic Yarn, a New York City-based startup known for making fabric from recycled ocean plastic. The Dutch company, founded in1989, together with Bionic Yarn, spawned the “RAW for the Oceans line”. The collection included a range of denim pieces woven with about nine tons of the plastic. Together the two companies brought to fashion’s attention the possibility of changing the textile industry, by showing them how they can cheaply produce denim and fundamentally create a win-win situation.
Ok, they are not precisely fashion tech-focused, but their efforts are worth a mention since many of us frequent their stores. Starbucks and McDonald’s plan to eliminate plastic straws and Ikea is phasing out single-use plastic from its stores and restaurants.
Founding editor-in-chief of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta is currently one of the leading influencers writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology. She has also given talks at Premiere Vision, Munich Fabric Start and Pure London, to name a few. Besides working as a fashion innovation consultant for various fashion companies like LVMH Atelier, Muchaneta has also contributed to Vogue Business, is a senior contributor at The Interline and an associate lecturer at London College of Fashion, UAL.