AFTER cashmere, alpaca and mohair, the
latest fad in the global textile market
may well be recycled plastic clothes.
Going by the recent developments in the
chemical and textile industries, it may
not be long before a sweater or a jacket
made from recycled plastic bottles
becomes an essential fashion accessory
as much in demand as Bally shoes or
Gucci leather items.
At a press show in London recently,
the Brasher boot company, a small
British concern, launched Europe's first
fleece jacket made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - a plastic
used in soft drink bottles. Except for the
zip and the thread, the rest of the jacket
was made from recycled material.
Says Chris Basher, the chairperson
of the company, which has recently
diversified from shoes into clothing,
"We turned to recycled fleece on commercial as well as environmental
grounds and recycled materials are
forming an increasing part of the companys output."
Brasher's Mountainmaster jacket -
made almost fully from recycled material - is a breakthrough in Europe, and
possibly in the world, as previous products have used fleece with a maximum
of 80 per cent recycled content.
Garments made from recycled PET Meet
a clothing material's basic demands -
lightness and comfort, warmth and
durability - while being environment-friendly, contends Basher.
Another company to foray into the
field of plastic clothes is Rhovyl, in
France. Rhovyl has started making yarn
comprising 70 per cent polyvinylchloride (Pk) - derived by recycling min-
eral water bottles - and 30 per cent
wool. Researchers say the fabric feels as
soft and supple as natural wool.
Both the PET and Pvc technologies
for making plastic clothes need to first
turn plastic into liquid. But whereas PET
bottles are first cut and then melted,
prior to filtration to remove impurities
and extrusion to form a fibre, Pvc has to
be dissolved in a solution of acetone and
carbon sulphate as it cannot be melted down.
Removing impurities, explains
Rhovyl's chairperson Alain Rigad, is
essential in both cases. And complex filtration to remove substances like polyethylene caps and chemical additives to
improve shock resistance, mean pro-
duction costs for recycled materials are
higher than for virgin plastic. "But the
difference is not necessarily passed on to
the customer," adds Rigad.
Though it may take some time for
clothes made from recycled plastic bottles to catch the fancy of the world,
Rhovyl and the Basher boot company
are wagering on eco-consciousness becoming a reality.