Second Hand Bottles Make First Rate Clothes

Discussion
Apr 16, 2008

By Bernice Hurst, Managing Partner, Fine Food Network

Coca-Cola’s plastic bottles are being given a new lease on life by a British company. Mark Southcott, who has a chemistry doctorate and a long family tradition of textile innovation, has created the Ecosmart range of jackets and trousers from fabric made entirely from recycled plastic bottles, including Coke’s iconic hourglass shaped variety. “We have to use clear plastic because colors weaken the fibre,” Mr. Southcott said.

In conversation with RetailWire, Mr. Southcott expanded on the procedure, explaining that bottles from recycling points are sorted, rinsed and sent to Asia for re-processing. Once chipped, they can be turned into fabric by specialists who then send the material back to manufacturers who turn it into clothing.

British retailer, Marks & Spencer, recently introduced men’s trousers, for example, from recycled bottles. These, according to Mr. Southcott, are much simpler to produce than blazers which have far more in the way of trimmings and linings. “Producing blazers is not trivial,” he assured RetailWire. “We are the first to make blazers from 100 percent recycled material.”

According to The Guardian,
his company, School Colours has
received orders from schools with more than 1,500 students, where the uniform’s “green” calculations promise a handy cut in energy consumption.

In the U.S., Coke this week introduced a “Drink 2 Wear” t-shirt line to support
Wal-Mart’s Earth Month program. The shirts, made from a blend of recycled plastic
bottles and cotton read, “Make your plastic fantastic” and “Rehash your trash.”

“These
fun T-shirts merge trend with consciousness, reminding shoppers that small
steps like recycling a few bottles can go a long way towards helping preserve
our environment,” Stuart Kronauge, VP of marketing at Coca-Cola North America,
said in a statement. “If the 200 million Wal-Mart shoppers in the U.S. purchase
these shirts, they will help us reuse and divert more than 700 million bottles
from the waste stream.”

The line will also be supported by a television, radio and print advertising
campaign that began airing on March 30.

Coca-Cola first launched its sustainable fashion line of apparel and consumer products in 2007. It’s “rPET” line now includes t-shirts, tote bags, messenger bags, caps, purses and notebooks.

“Our long term vision is for our packaging to no longer be seen as waste but as a value resource for future use,” said Scott Vitters, director, sustainable packaging, The Coca-Cola Company. “We have been taking steps towards this vision for decades starting with the first lifecycle assessment of our packaging in 1969 and introducing the first commercialized PET bottles made from recycled material in 1991. Our new line of sustainable merchandise is another step toward this future.”

Coke’s recycling initiatives come amid environmentalists’ rising complaints about plastic bottles clogging up landfills.

Discussion question: What do you think of Coke’s recycled apparel initiative? Do you foresee other creative recycling products from branded manufacturers?

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16 Comments on "Second Hand Bottles Make First Rate Clothes"


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Mel Kleiman
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I was fascinated by this item and went to the web to find out more about clothes made from recycled bottles and plastic. If you believe the hype, this is going to be something big. Most of the clothes are made with 50% plastic and 50% recycled cotton.

Claims like good for the environment, comfortable to wear, breathable fabric, keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, very long lasting. What more could we ask for?

Croc is even coming out with a line of plastic clothes. If they can do it in shoes can they do it in clothes?

James Tenser
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I was impressed until I read that the process involved shipping bottles halfway around the world. What’s the carbon footprint of that activity? Let’s applaud the intent and search for better ways to “act local.”

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Guest
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
14 years 1 month ago

I like the idea and applaud Coke for their efforts on this project as well as other sustainability initiatives they are driving, including the development of a plastic bottle (PET) recycling center in Georgia. Scott is right about moving packaging thinking from waste to value! As we re-think packaging and consider it a key part of the value stream, new innovations will happen.

Jamie also had an excellent point–we need to think about solutions from a systems standpoint–how much energy is (green house gases produced) in shipping the bottles to and from China? In order to really make a positive difference–we should be triple bottom line focused and consider economic, social and environmental consequences. Having said that, even small steps help us move in the right direction!

Steven Roelofs
Guest
Steven Roelofs
14 years 1 month ago

But how much does it cost? There are numerous products (clothing, furniture, etc.) made from recycled materials on the market, but generally they carry a significantly higher price tag, putting them out of reach of ordinary consumers. Until “green” doesn’t cost so much “green,” sustainable products aren’t going to have much of an impact on the big picture other than a nice, feel-good story to balance the usual bad news in the media.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

For decades, soft drink bottlers in New York State have stolen the nickel deposits from unrecycled bottles. They’ve used their political power to stop legislation mandating the return of the unclaimed deposits to the state. They’ve added the nickel deposits to their profit margins. So how about it, Coke? When will you really help sustainability by lobbying for meaningful deposits in all 50 states (how about 50 cents?), with the unclaimed deposits going back to the states, solely to be used for environmental activities? Or will Coke spend more on press releases about a few hundred shirts than the total cost of the shirts?

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
14 years 1 month ago

Undoubtedly others will follow suit. Tires are another category that will convert into clothes. When they say “everything’s resting on your tires” it will take on a whole new meaning….

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Clever idea. Certainly the novelty factor will propel sales. I wonder how comfortable the clothes are to wear. I guess we will soon know.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
14 years 1 month ago

Fabulous! Great idea; it should be followed by many. Can’t imagine how it feels but it is this kind of initiative and idealism that makes the world great!

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Coke’s recycled apparel initiative is, at the very least, a decent public relations move with good timing.

Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I need a new dark suit–would that come from Coke Zero?

Anne Howe
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

Go Coke! I will buy and wear those shirts. I love the school uniform idea even more as it seeds behavior change in the generation that really has to engage for the long term. Each of us in this industry should develop our personal sustainability plan. Mine includes recycling every last bit of plastic, and increasing my use of tap water filtered by Brita! And buying new clothes from manufacturers who really get it, like Nau. And yes, supporting Coke. I am proud to vote with my wallet for this kind of change.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
14 years 1 month ago

Once again Coke has shown why they are truly the greatest marketing company in the world.

Aside from the environmental benefits, I can see these clothes becoming popular just from the novelty factor.

Just out of curiosity, when someone no longer wants to wear one of these “plastic” garments, would they throw them in the garbage or recycle them?

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I am not sure of the make-up of the fiber that is created here, but wouldn’t it be great if alternatively, at a later date the clothes could be once again be recycled to make tires, Kevlar vests, or coke bottles. The second part of recyclability I understand is the repurposing of the recycled product or packaging once it’s second use is done. Kind of a lifecycle reincarnation of minerals and materials.

John McNamara
Guest
14 years 1 month ago

I am deeply troubled by the naivety of the comments. Clothing made of PET bottles has been around for decades–it’s called polar fleece.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 1 month ago

These clothes should have great appeal to young people especially. Many of them would probably be willing to enter a contest by Coca-Cola to come up with new names beyond “make your plastic fantastic” or “rehash your trash.” They would also make interesting focus groups where manufacturers and retailers could learn more about the types of clothing this target group would like to see made out of recycled materials.

Other manufacturers should take note of this recent innovation, along with retailers for private label applications.

I agree, however, with the comment made about “going local” rather than sending all these materials overseas, only to land back in the States. That does seem to use up a lot of energy.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 1 month ago

This is an old idea with new “clothing.” That being said, it’s time for more companies to jump on the band wagon and go green for good. This “green thing” is no longer a fad.

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