Thanks to you, we've achieved the incredible milestone of recycling 100,000 bottles into our collections. It's no small feat, and one we could have never dreamed of just three years ago when Team Timbuktu was launched 🙌
If you're new to the team and wondering what on earth recycled plastic bottles have anything to do with clothing, in short, we recycle them to create our fabrics. We do this to lessen our environmental impact, and predominantly for when we need to create a performance fabric, when you need to enlist synthetic fibres to help out, but don't want the traditional heavy footprint from synthetics.
And if that description went over your, no stress, here's an explainer. To create technical clothing you need to use synthetic fibres, e.g. to make a garment waterproof or sweat-wicking, or to make it have those performance and durable elements that you need for sports and bad weather, as unfortunately natural fibres like silk and hemp just won't do the trick.
Traditionally synthetic fabrics are made from crude oil and gas, which of course are not sustainable raw materials that we want to be working with. By using a waste stream that we have excess of, single use plastic bottles, we're able to create demand for that waste stream, reduce plastics going to landfill, and reduce our dependence on non renewables from the fashion industry.
But how do we recycle plastic bottles into fabric that ultimately becomes Raincoats, Puffer Jackets, Activewear and Beanies? It's all thanks to the help of our incredible recycling and manufacturing partners in Taiwan the process from collecting the bottles through to creating the yarn (to later by woven into fabric).
First of all bottles are collected for recycling, with the caps then removed and the bottles sorted by colour. We only use clear PET bottles, in order to achieve consistency and stability within the process. After the sorting process the bottles are cleaned and sterilised before being dried and shredded into small flakes, about a cornflake sized piece, with the shredding process being then repeated into a smaller rice bubbled sized piece, with these pieces then being melted into a liquid form that is then extruded into fibres, which are spun into thread, and then woven into fabric, which is then cut and sewn into garments. It's a complex process, but surprisingly still has a significantly reduced carbon footprint compared to using conventional polyester.
To keep track of our impact and our recycling process we worked with our fabric mills to find out how many bottles are recycled to create our fabrics, and then it was a simple equation of our yardage (or total amount of material needed to create the garment) times by the amount of bottles recycled per metre. Of course this changes if we change the weight of our material, or our pattern (the design of the garment rather than the print pattern), and what size the garment is, as each size uses a different amount of material. We've based our equation off only using size smalls for simplicity, although we do proudly stock from a XXS to XL. To give you an idea of how many bottles are in a garment, there's 31.2 recycled bottles in one of our Elements Jackets in size small.
Wondering how do we prove that they are indeed post consumers waste? All of the bottles we use are Global Recycled Standard certified, or GRS for short, meaning that they are (as you'd expect) certified post consumer waste, which creates accountability and transparency within our supply chain.
And whilst recycled materials are great as they’re a step forward towards circularity, they’re not perfect, as no fabric ever is, but it’s a start. We can reduce the environmental impact of fashion, by recycling resources that have already been created (and in this case we definitely have a lot of excess single use plastic) rather than rely on non renewables such as oil to create our fabrics. We'll always be implementing changes to be as sustainable as we can, and we can't wait to get achieve our next sustainability milestone.
So thank you so much for your support of this small Australian business and our efforts towards a more sustainable future, and we hope that this inspires you to make a change, as every purchase and action we take does make an impact and we can all make a difference.