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Jacket made of recycled plastic

Sustainable wear gets a shot in the arm as PM adorns innovative product

Jacket made of recycled plastic

The Prime Minister being gifted a jacket made of material recycled from 28 PET bottles. PTI

Vijay C Roy

Sustainable fashion as a concept has been around for a long time, especially in western countries, but the awareness level in India is low. So, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi donned a light, sleeveless “sadri” jacket in Parliament last week, it became the cynosure of all eyes. The jacket was made of material recycled from plastic or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.

It is estimated that around one lakh PET bottles are used every minute in India, of which up to 85-90 per cent are recycled. Around 10,000-15,000 bottles end up at landfill sites and in water bodies.

Understanding the global issue of sustainability, a few enterprising manufacturers in India have ventured into production of items using recycled plastic PET bottles. They say that this does not just reduce the quantum of plastics in the environment, but the process utilises less water and also reduces carbon emissions.

“The jacket that Prime Minister Modi wore is made out of 28 PET bottles. It has been recycled in our facility. PET bottles are collected in the form of bales, and these are sorted to remove the caps as well as labels. These are then crushed and recycled in a 10-stage process to clean hot wash flakes. These flakes are in turn made into polyester fibre and this fibre becomes yarn, used for garment production,” says Senthil Sankar, managing partner, Ecoline Clothing. The brand focuses on making fashion fully sustainable.

On the price, he adds, “We offer comfortable fashion wear for men and women. Unlike in the West, where sustainable fashion items are sold at a premium, we are selling at par with normal garments to increase adoption as the awareness is low. For example, our T-shirt costs anywhere between Rs 499 and Rs 699.” The jacket worn by the Prime Minister, he points out, cost around Rs 2,000, “which is almost 50 per cent cheaper than a normal jacket”.

It takes six to eight PET bottles to make a T-shirt and over 20 to make a jacket.

The brand uses a mix of polyester fabrics, providing a comfortable, airy texture and a tailored fit. The product range of Ecoline Clothing includes casual wear, sports wear, nightwear, winter wear and Modi jackets (“sadri”). The company is recycling around 15 lakh bottles daily and selling it as fibre, yarn and garments.

According to manufacturers, the energy required for this process is much lower than that for the conventional route, and CO2 emissions are also zero because there is no burning involved in the process. Sankar says they deploy dope dye technology — used to produce fibre in a wide range of colours.

Another sustainable garments company, Mumbai-based UniRec, tailors shirts, suits, trousers, jackets and blazers out of fabrics procured from recycled PET bottles. Those behind the venture say they are in a happy space despite low awareness levels among the masses.

“We started a year back and are currently supplying garments to corporates. We are planning to venture into retail also,” says Kapil Bhatia, founder and CEO, UniRec.

“The carbon emissions are almost 40 per cent lower in making garments from recycled polyester. There continues to be a high demand for polyester garments; we can do our bit by not using new plastic but recycling existing resources,” he adds.

According to Bhatia, every garment made by UniRec helps recycle eight to 10 PET bottles of one litre. “The entire process saves at least 90 per cent water and 50 per cent energy when compared with the traditional process.”

The global apparel consumption is estimated to be around $2.2 trillion, says Sankar. “Since the awareness, especially in western countries, is high, we expect sustainable fashion to have a market share of 15 per cent in the next eight to 10 years.”

According to experts, the European Union (EU) has already taken the lead to achieve sustainability in the textile sector by 2030. The shift in the EU’s journey towards sustainability will impact the Indian suppliers significantly. Europe is their biggest market.

As far as India is concerned, the clothing market is worth around $150 billion. The sustainable market may take time to gain a sizeable foothold, but change seems imminent.

Optimum use

  • India produces more than 25,000 tonnes of plastic a day or 16.5 billion tonnes of plastic a year.
  • On an average, every Indian uses around 11 kg of plastic per annum.
  • However, PET bottles can be recycled and converted into its original form i.e. plastic chips, which can then be used to manufacture polyester fabric.
  • This polyester fabric when blended with cotton or other such fabrics can help reduce the carbon footprint and emissions.

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