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The next time you drink from a plastic water bottle, you might take a moment to consider how the bottle may fit you one day.Designers producing clothing made from plastic packaging that had previously been destined for a landfill is now a growing trend.

Heather Caliendo

August 6, 2012

4 Min Read
Recycled plastics making a sustainable fashion statement

The next time you drink from a plastic water bottle, you might take a moment to consider how the bottle may fit you one day.

Designers producing clothing made from plastic packaging that had previously been destined for a landfill is now a growing trend.  

sustainable-clothing.jpgClothing makers are using post consumer resin (PCR) and spinning it into fibers that are then used to make a type of polyester. This polyester has become the green fabric of choice to create various type of clothing from t-shirts to sports jerseys.

At this summer's Fashion Week Swim in Miami Beach, the Plastics Make it Possible initiative, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, partnered with fashion bloggers to highlight the growing role of plastics in summer clothing and accessories.

On Friday, July 20, Bloggers Night Out, a network of bloggers who cover fashion, gathered more than 75 colleagues to discuss the latest trends and to learn more about plastics and fashion. Bloggers at the event perused eco-chic swimsuits made with fabrics derived from recycled plastic bottles, colorful recycled-plastic flip-flops, sunglasses, and other summer fashions made with plastics.

Recycled-plastic fabrics and accessories give new life to bottles and packaging that might otherwise end up in landfills and the plastics are durable enough to last through seasons of sun, sand, and sweat, the ACC stated.

"Using recycled plastics in clothing, including summer beachwear, is a growing fashion trend and a way to do something good for your wardrobe and the environment," stated Jennifer Killinger, senior director of Sustainability & Public Outreach at the ACC. "The fashion world has embraced recycled-plastic fabrics and accessories, so it's now common to find them at mainstream retailers."

It's not just plastics trade associations that are encouraging the usage of recycled plastics in clothing and accessories; reality TV stars, athletes, and musicians are jumping on the green fabric bandwagon. Here's a roundup of a few recent launches. 

From "The Hills" to plastics
Lauren Conrad who was previously noted for "acting" on the MTV series "The Hills" has retired her reality TV career and is now a fashion designer. She recently launched the BlueAvocado XO(eco) collection of sustainable and reusableCL42176.jpeglifestyle products made with Repreve fibers. The line includes 20 food-on-the-go, travel, and cosmetic storage accessories. The collection is fashioned using Repreve-based fabric made from recycled plastics, with products containing between 3 and 35 plastic bottles.

"As a designer, making greener choices has to be easy, inspiring and fun. I have designed items in the BlueAvocado XO(eco) collection with Repreve to become a part of my daily life so I can have fashionable, eco-friendly products," Conrad stated. "If the XO(eco) collection keeps millions of disposable bags and plastic bottles from landfills and oceans, then we have successfully designed a timeless fashion statement."

Nike - just recycle it?
Nike released a YouTube video this past May, which showcased how reclaimed, discarded plastic bottles are melted down to produce new yarn, which is converted into fabric. The company touts this line as "the most advanced football jerseys on the planet."

With at least 96% recycled polyester, each jersey is made using an average of seven plastic bottles, and each short is made using an average of six plastic bottles—adding up to 13 plastic bottles per kit.

This recycling process saves raw materials and reduces energy consumption by an estimated 30% compared to manufacturing virgin polyester, the company stated.

Since 2010, Nike Football has used an estimated 115 million recycled plastic bottles to create its high performance kits.

Making recycled products "cool"
Singer and producer will.i.am believes recycled plastics are suffering from an image problem.

1725904_G.jpg"If you think about (recycled) products now, none of them are cool," he told the Associated Press. "You have to bring some art and fashion sensibility into this technology that turns a bottle into something cool."

will.i.am and The Coca-Cola Company have launched Ekocycle, a stand-alone brand initiative dedicated to helping encourage recycling behavior and sustainability among consumers through "aspirational, yet attainable" lifestyle products made in part from recycled material.

The Ekocycle brand initiative will identify products such as assorted plastic bottles that can be repurposed into recycled content for fashionable and valuable lifestyle products. It will also encourage demand and use of recycled materials, and reinforce the importance of recycling finished products, according to the company.

will.i.am said he wants to eventually see this material used for high-end glasses, shoes and bags.

"Together with will.i.am, we will promote recycling in a unique way with other well-known brands to create lifestyle products that consumers worldwide desire," said Bea Perez, VP and chief sustainability officer, The Coca-Cola Company. "Today's generation of young consumers represents an active force and the Ekocycle brand aims to be a driver in rallying their support and efforts around a global sustainability movement."

In an era of bans and protests, it's encouraging to see designers and entertainers take a proactive approach to help reduce our landfill issues.

What are your thoughts about recycled plastics and fashion? Fashion aside, can this movement help increase recycling rates? 

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