There is no doubt that consumers are becoming more aware about sustainability and recycling, and the good news is that brands are responding with an increasing number of products that tick those boxes.
The once difficult and costly process of turning plastic bottles into high-quality nylon yarn is becoming cheaper and widely available, meaning more brands are switching to this new material, which is good news for the consumer and the planet.
Here are five companies that are turning recycled plastic bottles into modern, well-made and desirable (not to mention useful) products.
In July, Levi’s added to its range of environmentally responsible products with the launch of a backpack made entirely from recycled plastic and waste scraps. Revamping its existing L-Pack and L-Pack 2.0, the new version is made entirely from polyester reclaimed from plastic bottles.
With several pockets and sturdy zips, it looks exactly like any other backpack, with only a small label giving any indication of its sustainable pedigree. Tucked away inside is a tag that reads: "Made with recycled plastic bottles. Designed with the planet in mind.”
The bag comes in three sizes – mini, small and regular – and a range of colours, including black, lilac, mustard, maroon, camo-green and two-tone blue. It costs from $35 (Dh128) to $65. Surprisingly smart-looking, it is available with different pocket configurations, making it useful for everything from school to hiking.
In 2007, designer Anya Hindmarch released a £5 (Dh24) canvas tote bag embroidered with the words "I am not a plastic bag". It was sold through supermarkets in an attempt to convince consumers to stop using plastic, and the waiting list quickly ballooned to 80,000 people in the UK. In Taiwan, shoppers became so desperate for the item, 30 people ended up in hospital.
Now, 13 years later, Hindmarch is back with a new version. And this time, it is made from plastic.
The popular tote bag is available at Level Shoes in The Dubai Mall and is made of high-quality recycled PET plastic reclaimed from bottles, in a process that took two years to finesse. Using an impressive 32 500ml bottles per bag, the result feels like cotton canvas, with a protective laminated layer derived from recycled windscreens. It's trimmed with leather handles, patterned with a tumbling block monogram and has the words “I am a plastic bag” printed over the top, in the same scrolling typeface as the original.
Tights from Swedish Stockings
Tights aren’t an obvious choice when it comes to sustainability, but Swedish Stockings wants to change that.
The company was founded in 2013 after friends Nadja Forsberg and Linn Frisinger realised that normal tights were made from harmful petroleum products – and are too easily damaged. The pair began thinking about how they could stop tights ending up in the dustbin after only one or two wears.
Rethinking the entire production process, their solution is a range of high-quality socks, stockings, tights and cycling shorts made from recycled plastic bottles and Econyl, a nylon yarn made from reclaimed ghost nets. These discarded fishing nets drift unchecked into the ocean and are thought to kill or injure up to 650,000 fish, whales, turtles, dolphins and seals every year, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defence Council, a US environmental advocacy group.
If the idea of wearing old fishing nets seems unpleasant, consider that, thanks to the properties of nylon, the resulting recycled thread is identical to the virgin yarn, meaning it is both clean and hygienic.
A UAE company making big changes is DGrade, a brand that makes clothes out of used consumer plastic. It works across every level of the process, from collecting the bottles to producing the finished garments, meaning every step is traceable as the company works to create a closed-loop process.
Once gathered, the bottles are turned into a new type of yarn called Greenspun, which DGrade then turns into T-Shirts and caps. By mixing the material with different quantities of cotton, the resulting fabric is soft and breathable. The online shop even features an icon of a bottle displaying the percentage of recycled plastic used in each item.
Ahead of Dubai Expo 2020, the company has also released a range of T-shirts decorated with the event's official logo.
Surfers in the UAE will probably already know about the innovative work being done by FiveOceans, but for everyone else, this company makes surfboard fins entirely from ocean waste.
Founded by surfers who were sick of paddling through plastic litter in the seas around Indonesia, the company is now dedicated to turning that same rubbish into something useful. Local communities gather the discarded water bottles, which are then repurposed into fins – the small rudders that are fixed to the underside of a surfboard to help with steering and control.
Each set of fins made by FiveOceans uses about 100 bottle caps, helping to clear the waters around Java and Bali – both top surfing destinations. Thanks to some clever thinking, this company is helping to transform a surfer's biggest bugbear – plastic – into something indispensable for customers who appreciate the scale of the problem.
FiveOceans is now using the same process to create frisbees, too, meaning even the land-locked can help clean up the seas.