Apparel from Plastic Waste Driving DTC Fashion Brands

The majority of us like to believe that the plastic things we deposit at a recycling bin are actually recycled. Regrettably, since January 2018 when China ceased accepting plastics from Western states, plenty of plastic waste is going into landfills or sitting around in stockpiles.

Before China stopped inbound shipments, 70 percent of the world’s plastic waste was sent to this nation — about 7 million tons annually. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam started taking what China no longer desired, but within a year they had been overrun with plastic waste. They also cut back.

An unlikely savior, the fashion industry, is currently purchasing lots of that plastic. Many organizations are committing to creating apparel from recycled materials. Sometimes this motion is known as”slow fashion” because it doesn’t embrace mass production, but it’s finding a loyal following of customers prepared to pay a premium for products produced from consumer waste solutions.

Listed below are five direct-to-consumer manufacturers which are successfully making products from recycled plastic and other recycled material.

Dresden Optics

Dresden Optics

This Australian company makes eyeglass frames from completely recyclable nylon, combining new and recycled plastic. Its business model is very similar to Warby Parker: Shoppers can be given a choice of frames by email. The business utilizes a closed-loop, zero-waste system, which means it collects the manufacturing waste, cuts it up, and puts it back in the molding procedure.

Dresden Optics is experimentation with substances and, so far, has made limited-edition frames out of:

  • Milk bottle tops from local cafes.
  • Marine debris gathered from New South Wales beaches.
  • Waste plastics provided by clients.
  • Recycled wood chips.
  • Beer keg caps.
  • Fishing baits discarded by trawlers and washed up on local beaches.

Prices vary from AU$99 to AU$579, depending on the type of lens. Dresden Optics has retail stores across Australia and New Zealand, and in Toronto and Hamilton, Canada.



Founded in 2009 in Spain, Ecoalf creates apparel and accessories for women, men, and kids that are made entirely from recycled materials.

This company claims it’s recycled 80 million tons of plastics. Ecoalf’s vision is to quit using natural resources in a careless way and also to make the first production of recycled products with the same quality and design as the greatest non-recycled products. Along with plastic bottles, it recycles wool and cotton, in addition to tires because of its flip-flops.

The non-profit Ecoalf Foundation’s mission is to prevent marine pollution by trawling the sea for plastic bottles and discarded fishing nets. It has partnered with over 2,500 fishermen in 32 global ports, for a total of 440 sea trawlers. They’ve collected over 300 tons of garbage from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and waters around Thailand. The goal”is to wash the oceans of waste with the support of the fishing industry and to provide plastic waste a new life thanks to recycling and the round economy.”

With stores in a number of Spanish cities in addition to Berlin, the company also sells its products online.

Elle Evans

Elle Evans

Another Australian company that’s dedicated to sustainability, Elle Evans produces swimsuits, leggings, and sports bras. Eschewing mass production, Elle Evans makes each swimsuit to purchase, after receiving the purchase, in its own Melbourne, Australia factory.

The business utilizes 100-percent regenerated nylon yarn made from sea and landfill waste which has been sorted, cleaned, regenerated, and purified back to its original quality in a process that it claims is less detrimental into the environment than the production of virgin nylon.

Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective

Headquartered in Seattle, Girlfriend Collective obtains its post-consumer plastic water bottles out of Taiwan, where 55 percent of local waste is recycled. The bottles are shredded into tiny chips, washed, and delivered to Girlfriend Collective’s manufacturing facility in Vietnam, where they are further processed into small pellets. The mill is owned and run by a Danish family with a long history in the textile sector.

The pellets are heated and spun into thread that is then spun into yarn. Next the yarn goes to a knitting factory. The business produces leggings, bras, tee shirts, and shorts. Every pair of leggings contains 25 recycled water bottles.



Rothy’s manufactures women’s ballet flats, loafers, and shoes, in addition to kids’ shoes and loafers, from recycled plastic. Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, Rothy’s failed to deliver a product to market before 2015. Originally the two founders meant to fabricate in the U.S., using knitting machines in Maine. However, the workers there were accustomed to working with leather, and it was hard to adapt to yarn made from plastic. The founders then signed up with a contract manufacturer in China. That was not satisfactory either. In January 2017, Rothy’s opened its factory in Dongguan, China. The mill now has 450 employees and 160 machines knitting shoes 22 hours each day.

Rothy’s goal is to have zero waste from the production procedure. The business has repurposed 40 million water bottles so far.

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The top knits of its own ballet shoes are made from 100-percent post-consumer plastic water bottles, which can be washed, sterilized, and fused into a fiber that’s then knit into yarn. The uppers are sewn to a sole by hand and sent directly to the customer or to a Rothy’s retail shop, now in San Francisco and the Georgetown district of Washington D.C. Stores are intended for Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. Rothy’s also sells women’s loafers in Nordstrom.

Rothy’s has a higher price point compared to other apartments, both vinyl and other materials. Prices range from $125 to $165, with a few special collections priced at $195. This makes it vulnerable to lower-priced copycats, and the firm has registered a few suits, including a recent one against leading shoe manufacturer Steve Madden.

This month Rothy’s entered into a partnership with Italian designer Marta Ferri on a new line of sneakers that feature merino wool in addition to plastic.

Apparel from Vinyl

These five brands and many others have shown that customers will purchase apparel that’s made from recycled plastic. Some traditional brands like Patagonia have created separate clothing lines made from recycled materials. More brands and manufacturers will probably enter the market.

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