By Pumudu K.
The oceans around the world are struggling. It’s estimated about eight million tons of plastic waste enter our waters around the world each year. This creates a ripple effect where the chemical composition of the oceans change, affecting all marine life.
At the same time, about 26 billion pounds of clothing is discarded every year. These clothes clutter landfills, which produce hazardous chemicals which further hurt our air and soil.
It was in 2009 that Javier Goyeneche created a venture where he felt he could bring these two issues into more awareness. Goyeneche launched Ecoalf, a clothing line which had an ambitious goal; to use the plastic debris found in the Mediterranean Sea and transform them into fabric which would be used for their clothing. The project was called Upcycling the Oceans (UTO).
Ecoalf’s vision was “to create the first generation of recycled products with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products.” In 2017, it looks like they’re managing to just that.
The UTO project has a three-step process. To start with, local fishers from Ecoalf’s native Spain collect the plastic from the Mediterranean seabed (fishing trawlers recover about a ton of trash per day). Secondly, it is purified ready for polymerization, which is transforming the plastic into pellets. Finally, a constant filament is created through the extrusion and the pellets are spun into thread which is used for Ecoalf’s clothing lines. Every item of clothing Ecoalf is 100% recyclable as well. This means that UTO is not only cleaning up our oceans, but also possibly reduce the wastage of clothing around the world as well.
Since its inception, Ecoalf’s innovative and eco-friendly process has been widely hailed. In 2011, the United Nations awarded Ecoalf with “Women Together Organization Award” for the best concept of world fashion revelation. In addition to this, they have also received awards for sustainable development from the European Business Awards for the Environment in 2014, which is organized by the European Commission, among other awards.
But, Ecoalf’s goals are not limited to the waters off the coast of Spain. In 2017, they expanded their project to Thailand, with the support of the Thai government. Goyeneche believes that expansion of the UTO project can benefit communities around the world, especially in Asian countries, where 60% of the plastic waste in the oceans is located. We hope that this project continues to grow, and shows that being environmentally-friendly is the best fashion statement there is!
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To learn more about the UTO project, check these links below: