Fashion to Solve China’s Plastic Problem

By Sondra Kim 16 November, 2016

Waste2Wear's Kim tell us how the company recycles plastic waste into sustainable & high quality fabrics

Plastic is almost indestructible yet global production is x2 every 11 years; most PET is made for fibres not bottles
Recycling plastic into yarn is not new but Waste2Wear takes it further by pushing for a circular economy
The company demonstrates a new and successful business model where sustainable practices are the norm

Shanghai-based Dutch entrepreneur Monique Maissan sets an ambitious mission for her company, Waste2Wear: “One day to run out of plastic bottles that need to be cleaned up”.
Our fascination with plastic and the urge to turn everything into a single-use or excessively packaged item in the name of convenience isn’t looking so good. This material has been around for only about half a century, but managed to create a devastatingly huge environmental problem everyone has heard so much about.

Plastic is almost indestructible yet global plastic production is doubling every 11 years

Plastic is almost indestructible. With global plastic production doubling every 11 years, hundreds of thousands tons of plastic waste end up out of the landfills straight into our oceans and seas. While we can ban disposable products like plastic bags or bottles and refuse excessive packaging, attempting to make smaller footprint, as with every environmental issue, plastic waste is an entangled problem with many faces and some blind spots.

Things we wear may not come from what we think

Textiles and plastic bottles are not as unrelated as we might think. Actually, 65 percent of the textiles we produce worldwide are synthetics, most of which are made of the same material that goes into ubiquitous single-use products. Contrary to the common belief, most PET is manufactured specifically to be made into fibres, not bottles. That means the environmental burden of plastic production and waste is a question of unsustainable practices in various industries, including fashion.

Fashion industry is far from innocent – most PET is manufactured to be made into fibres, not bottles

The fashion industry itself is far from innocent: As the awareness about how our clothes are made grows, we get to know the true impact of the garments. The abuse of people and planet is the price that is paid for our addiction to bargain-price clothes. That’s why recent years showed a clear trend toward sustainability, closed-loop systems and cradle-to-cradle alternatives across industries.

From plastic waste to sustainable fabrics, haute-couture collections, social programmes & more

The best way to resolve an issue is to get involved and this is how a story of Waste2Wear began. The idea of recycling plastic for yarn has been around for about 15 years, but Dutch entrepreneur Monique Maissan explores it further. She has been active in China and India since 1998, implementing extensive knowledge in textiles to make a real change for a circular economy. “When I discovered it was possible to make yarn from used plastic bottles that could be applied to making toys, chairs and, carpets, I had an idea: if we could use fine yarns to make good quality clothing – a product for a large audience – this could potentially change the world.

Waste2Wear has improved the way to recycle post-consumer plastic bottles into high standard eco-friendly fabrics suitable for clothes, bags etc.

The founder of Waste2Wear improved the way to recycle post-consumer plastic bottles into eco-friendly fabrics that correspond to the highest standards. This unique process involves turning environmentally-damaging waste into usable, sustainable yarns.The recycled yarns are then combined with natural fibres to be woven or knitted into eco-friendly fabrics, suitable for garments, home textiles, and accessories. The 100% recycled polyester yarn can be used on its own or be blended with other eco-friendly yarns to produce Waste2Wear fabrics. It is suitable for homeware, bags, curtains, etc., but also for clothing.
Take school uniforms, for years the company has been helping to promote environmental education awareness, providing a number of international schools in China with high-quality eco-friendly garments. Sustainable corporate uniforms and work apparel boosts up the CSR initiatives, appreciated greatly by successful businesses. Each and every of Waste2Wear products is designed to foster the sustainable habits in our daily lives, but perhaps, there is not an industry more capable of carrying out the positive eco impact on a large scale than fashion.
Having joined forces with a like-minded Dutch fashion designer, Monique Maissan is making a major shift in sustainable fashion. Monique Collignon, an established fashion designer, who creates haute-couture and ready-to-wear clothes, presented the collection with Waste2Wear fabrics for the third season already.
The first collection by Monique Collignon and Waste2Wear became a sensation at runways of Amsterdam Fashion Week last year. And for a good reason: it became the first fashion show to display haute couture designs made of 100 percent recycled PET bottles. After the success of sustainable haute couture, “The Conscious Collection” advances with each line, empowering women to become the part of environmental problem’s solution. It consists of 70% Waste2Wear fabrics, the rest is made from other sustainable fabrics. Responsibly-produced fabric for a single Couture Light dress takes 30 PET bottles out of the environment. It’s not hard to imagine the positive impact fashion can have, if almost the entire collection consists of elegant garments that are actually made of recycled plastic. For the 2017 summer collection, the designer also introduced Waste2Weave fabrics.

The collection by Monique Collignon & Waste2Wear at Amsterdam Fashion Week last year was the 1st fashion show to display haute couture designs made of 100% recycled PET bottles

Waste2Weave is a social programme of Waste2Wear in India with a mission of taking women out of poverty and plastic out of the environment. Before, these women earned $45 per month, meaning it was impossible to survive with the many children they have. Those women were abused by the entire supply chain. Waste2Wear provides them with a higher wage and after two-and-a-half years they will be able to own the devices they are working with.
This is not the only programme, Waste2Wear launches beyond plastic recycling. Like Waste2Weave, Plastic Catch project also aims to improve people’s livelihood and conserve the environment. Developed in collaboration with Ocean Recovery Alliance, an NGO from Hong Kong, it helps local fisherman, empowering communities through ocean cleanup.

 “…we are actually on the verge of an era when pursuing sustainable practices becomes the norm.”

It may have taken a long time for companies to understand the importance of business models that integrate social and environmental impacts, ethics, human rights and consumer concerns into their core strategies and operations, but we are actually on the verge of an era when pursuing sustainable practices becomes the norm. Well, a practice, that turns environmentally damaging plastic waste into stunning textiles, certainly is a multi-tasking solution.

Further Reading

  • Financing Water Resilience: Climate Bonds for China – Green or “climate” bonds is a rapidly growing market but there are verification concerns plus gaps for water-related investments. AGWA’s John Matthews & Climate Bond Initiative’s Anna Creed & Lily Dai introduce the new water climate bond standard that addresses these issues
  • Water PPPs To Lead In China – All new water & wastewater projects in China need to follow the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model. Will this mean big change and how have other water-related projects been funded in China? China Water Risk’s Yuanchao Xu takes a look
  • Circular Fashion Today – Closing the loop in the fashion is not new. But perhaps now that China,  the world’s largest manufacturer of garments, wants to go circular, it might become a reality. Get on top of the latest trends with leading circular fashion innovators
  • 1 Year On: Where Are The Top Fashion Brands? – It’s one year on but have brands upped their sustainability actions? We take a closer look at who’s not going circular and who’s leading the pack with more initiatives and engagement with NGOs
  • Future Fashion & ‘Beautiful China’ – Together Forever? – With fast changing regulatory landscape moving against pollution from the textile industry, is there really room for fast fashion in a ‘Beautiful China’? China Water Risk’s McGregor on why it’s time for fashion to become beautiful inside and out
  • Plastic, China & The Circular Economy – Only ~10% of plastics gets recycled, but this is where opportunities lie. Doug Woodring, founder of Plasticity Forum, shares key points from the 5th annual forum on the circular future of plastic
  • Real-time Monitoring: Cleaning Up Textiles – There’s now nowhere to hide. The latest IPE Blue Map app integrates real-time emissions data with violation records plus other features. IPE’s Kate Logan on what this means value for brands, suppliers & consumers
Sondra Kim
Author: Sondra Kim
Sondra is an environmentally-concerned writer and avid recycler. She currently lives and works in China, channelling her Master’s degree and Mandarin proficiency to sustainable lifestyle awareness. Her work has been published on, a leading global sustainability media platform and green lifestyle sections of, Chinese artist Yi Zhou’s digital mag. But everything started at Waste2Wear, where Sondra is a content writer. She shares the passions of the company about making the real impact and inspiring the eco-behavioural change across industries.
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