At Top Dutch Solar Racing, we mainly focus on finding sustainable solutions for the energy and transportation sectors. After all, fossil fuels are a main driver of climate change and keep polluting our planet. However, the fashion industry is just as big of a threat: producing a single t-shirt uses up 4,000 litres of water and only 3% of clothes are recycled worldwide. The main culprit is fast fashion which doesn’t only lead to extreme amounts of cheaply produced clothing, but also exploits and endangers workers in developing countries. We knew that if we really want to promote sustainability and drive positive change, we can’t just print our logo on any green t-shirt and call it a day. Instead, we partnered up with Schijvens Corporate Fashion who produce circular fashion made from recycled materials. Read on to find out how they do it and why it matters!
The conventional fashion industry produces clothing by using new raw materials for every item and after it is worn out, consumers simply throw it into landfill. This results in 200 million kilograms of clothing waste in the Netherlands every year. That is a pity because just because a clothing item can’t be worn anymore, doesn’t mean the material it is made from is useless. Schijvens acknowledges that which is why their clothing is produced from 100% recycled materials.Their clothes not only contain recycled cotton from old fabric, but also old PET plastic bottles. This way, Schijvens not only found a solution for reducing clothing waste, but also plastic pollution! After the clothes have reached the end of their lifetime, they are brought back to Schijvens in order to be recycled again – and the cycle continues.
From plastic bottle to fashionable item
The question you might have now is: “How do you make t-shirts from plastic bottles?”. The answer is rather simple. Both the old clothing from customers and plastic bottles are shredded into tiny pieces. The PET flakes are then melted down into granules. Once you heat it, it can be pulled into PET fibres. At the same time, the fabric pieces are pulled apart to make recycled fibre out of them. Both the PET fibre and cotton fibre are finally combined which allows Schijvens to produce recycled yarn. That yarn is used for various types of clothing like t-shirts, polos, sweaters and trousers.
This whole production process can be repeated three or four times. With every cycle, the cotton fibres disintegrate more and finally disappear completely. PET can be recycled indefinitely. Even though not all used materials can be recycled over and over again, this circular approach saves 99% water consumption, 40% energy consumption and 40% CO2 emissions in comparison to conventional production processes!
For the environment and for the people
It is clear that a circular economy is important to protect our planet from pollution and exploitation of resources. But what about the employees of clothing factories in the Middle and Far East? It is well-known that they often have to produce clothes under inhumane circumstances and get paid below living wage to ensure a cheap retail price. Schijvens’ main factory is located in Turkey where the recovered materials are recycled into corporate fashion. Instead of saving money on production costs, Schijvens wants its employees to be able to live a normal life. The calculated salary for employees therefore takes housing, food, education, health care, clothing, transportation and savings into account. This also means that Schijvens calculated how much a certain clothing item has to cost in order to cover all living expenses of its workers. To ensure that the paid salary is always up to date, Schijvens developed the Living Wage tool that received the Fair Wear Foundation Best Practice Award.
With Schijvens Corporate Fashion as our new partner, we are not only the most fashionable solar team out there, but we also broaden our horizon and are happy to be part of the future of sustainable fashion!