When the fabric comes from the sea

Let's clear the oceans from plastic

Marine animals entangled in bags, bottle caps in fish stomachs: images we would never want to see again. According to the WWF, there are over 150 million tons of plastic in the seas and oceans. If we do not act in time, there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish by 2050.

There is no shortage of initiatives, but the problem is truly enormous. Pending laws that end single-use plastics use, programs for collecting, recovering, and recycling plastic waste abandoned in the environment are welcome. It is an effort that involves NGOs, environmentalists, ordinary citizens, and businesses alike. For example, in the summer of 2019, an expedition by the Ocean Voyages Institute, also using drones and satellite images, collected 40 tons of waste from the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest floating waste island in the world, in constant movement between the coasts of California and Hawai. Last October, some Italian coastal cities also promoted beach cleaning days. It is a small step, but it is a start.

Success was the initiative led by Parley for the Oceans, the NGO founded by the American environmentalist Cyrill Gutsch, who, since 2015, has started a collaboration with Adidas creating a line of sneakers produced with plastic recovered from the oceans and recycled. Under the Ocean Plastic® brand, it offers recycled polyester to the fashion world. Another success case is the Spanish brand Ecoalf was founded in 2009 by Javier Goyeneche as part of the Upcycling the Oceans Project to collect fishing nets and abandoned materials. The garbage collected is transformed into quality yarn. The Spanish Seaqual Initiative collected 100 tons of marine litter in the ocean near Europe and the Mediterranean. The collected waste is recycled into the Seaqual Yarn polyester yarn that contains 10% marine plastic and 90%  PET post-consumption. The yarn has the same characteristics as standard polyester, but besides a story worth telling and contributes to making the product and the collection made more sustainable. Finally, Econyl, the polyamide yarn by the Italian Aquafil made from abandoned fishing nets mixed with recycled textile flooring.

These are important initiatives that have created production chains starting from fishermen's direct involvement, invited to collect and deliver plastic waste to the organizations that will send them to the recycling processes. In addition to cleaning up the oceans and providing secondary raw materials to the sustainable fashion chain, these projects also revitalize local supply chains engaged in recovery, sorting, material handling, and recycling operations. It is no small matter. It means offering jobs and increasing the well-being of entire communities.

Another opportunity for the fashion world to help transform initiatives born from environmental awareness into a circular business.