Producing clothes out of potential landfill may sound odd, but it’s possible. D-Grade clothing is one company that is doing just that.
When you think about recycling, what do you think it means? Where do the recyclables go? What happens to them? In the UAE, recycling is a little difficult – the presence of recycling bins is rare and rumours of garbage men tipping the contents of the bins into the same truck as the general waste tends to stave off enthusiasm for the eco-friendly R-word. But one company is working to invigorate the UAE’s penchant for recycling by turning bottles into clothes.
D-Grade is a recycled clothing company which takes plastic bottles, breaks them down into a plastic yarn and weaves that into everyday wear. Thoughts of plastic clothing tend to conjure images of garbage bags, ’90s-style outfits and Lady Gaga-esque get-up, but D-Grade’s products are not that at all.
D-Grade founder and organiser Kris explains: ‘It came to my attention some time ago that the plastic found in ordinary drinking water bottles is the same polymer as that used in the manufacturing of polyester. I teamed up with partners in the UK and began developing clothing collections using a process of extruding plastic into fibre and spinning high quality yarns.’
Currently, D-Grade uses plastic water bottles, shampoo bottles, yoghurt containers and milk bottles, which get melted into plastic flakes, then melted and exuded into fibres. The clothing is longer-lasting, requires no ironing and is equally as comfortable as cotton blends.
D-Grade’s website has the information of what each item is made out of and how much plastic it takes to make each product – the yarn can also be combined with other fibres to have a semi-plastic fabric. Ski Dubai currently sells hoodies made out of the plastic/fibre combination.
Kris brought the idea to the UAE three years ago, after finding out the UAE has the highest plastic bottle wastage in the world and only recycles around eight-11 percent.
‘We know that the UAE has the highest consumption of bottled water per capita in the world and it is our aim to capture this plastic before it gets into landfill. The issues we are facing are more about recovery rates and recovering uncontaminated feedstock and that is about educating the consumer to segregate their waste efficiently,’ he says.
D-Grade representatives are also preparing for the new Plastic Challenge, where participating schools will compete to collect the largest amount of plastic bottles. ‘We are introducing this initiative to raise awareness of plastic pollution and to show something sustainable can be done to help prevent plastic waste going to landfill. The programme is designed to encourage the collection and segregation of plastic bottles, to educate the young generation about the environmental impact of plastic and to demonstrate our process of making high-quality clothing,‘ says Kris.
‘The first part of the D-Grade Plastic Challenge is to see how much plastic can be collected in total by all schools involved and this is the figure that will be posted to the media. Currently we are using the plastic that we collect to make all types of clothing including school uniforms, PE kits, bags and accessories. The second part of the Plastic Challenge is the T-shirt design competition where the pupils are given the chance to design their own T-shirt print on the theme of the impact of plastic waste’.
D-Grade is also looking to establish its own manufacturing plant in the UAE. Currently, Kris tells us, they are producing the spun yarn in China, but are on the way to having a holistic business model based in the UAE.
‘We currently produce in China and Asia but are now focussing on the local supply chain and plan to establish our own manufacturing base in the UAE. The yarns are branded Greenspun and are used by several large multinational companies in favour of conventional polyester, made from a finite resource – oil!
Our process is far more eco-friendly – we use 20 percent less water, 50 percent less energy and produce 55 percent fewer carbon emissions.’