Dubai: A clothing manufacturer who relies on discarded plastic bottles for his fabric is hopeful that Dubai's addiction to bottled water could help him set up roots in the UAE.
It takes about three bottles to make a T-shirt or up to 65 bottles to make a waterproof jacket, according to Kris Barber, director of Dgrade clothing line.
Plastic bottles are made of polyethylene (PET), a form of polyester that is mostly associated with a fabric used in clothing and interiors. However both are actually polymers, a derivative of fossil fuels.
After the bottles are melted, they regain their polyester form and can be made into yarn or thread from which clothes can be woven or knitted.
During the World Cup 2010, Nike's national teams, including Brazil, Portugal and the Netherlands wore jerseys made from up to eight recycled plastic bottles.
Clothing made of recycled PET plastic bottles is surprisingly soft to the touch because it is essentially polyester, the man-made material renowned for creasing less than natural fibres and being more durable.
Feel it, believe it
"You really need someone to feel it before you believe it," Barber said of the T-shirts and fleece jackets displayed in his Dubai apartment.
"Plastic PET bottles are already made of polyester that has just been extruded and processed. We are recycling a polyester material instead of creating polyester from scratch," he added.
A range of clothing will be put on show during the Epic Sustainable Living Expo in Dubai Mall from Wednesday to Saturday.
Barber has been recycling plastics for two years, converting them into anything that gives them a second lease of life rather than going to landfill.
So far the plastic bottles are being recovered from the UK and shipped to China and Taiwan to be processed into polyester yarn. But Barber would like to develop similar plants in the UAE using waste bottles from the emirates.
The UAE's per capita bottled water consumption is estimated at 275 litres per year, the highest consumption rate in the world. Collecting the bottles and processing them here would bring down the current cost of manufacturing clothing, said Barber. "The cost saving of doing it on our own doorstep would be so much cheaper, especially as production in China is not as competitive as it was," he said. A T-shirt is currently priced at Dh150.
Clear and blue plastic bottles are preferred for clothing over green plastic that can result in a dirty looking T-shirt, said Barber.
Once the plastic is collected and cleaned it is crushed and chipped into fine flakes. It is then melted in a large vat and forced through something like a shower head to extrude it into long fibre strands. The yarn can then be mixed with cotton.
The T-shirts by Dgrade are made of 50 per cent recycled plastic and 50 per cent cotton.
What is in an outfit?
Each T-shirt = 3 x 500ml plastic bottles
Each pair of shorts = 30 x 500ml plastic bottles
Each Jacket = 40-60 x 500ml plastic bottles
To see the full line visit www.dgradeclothing.com or visit the Epic Sustainable Living Expo, Dubai Mall, June 22-25