From recycling to reusing: how this Mumbai startup is going green by turning plastic into wearable fabric
It is estimated that a massive 25,940 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India every day, according to a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2017. This translates to a per capita consumption of 11 kilograms of plastic on an average.
A large part of this waste can be attributed to single-use or disposable applications in the form of bottles, bags, wrappers, and sachets - the most fatal of them all being the plastic bottles. However, the good news is that plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), though not biodegradable, are completely recyclable.
India’s top 60 cities generate 15,000 tonnes of plastic every single day.
And tapping into this is Mumbai-based health food and beverage startup Raw Pressery, which is doing its bit to negate the harmful effects of plastic. The startup, which was founded in 2013 to offer healthy cold-pressed juices, realised the harmful effects of plastics, has started an eco-friendly initiative called RawCycle.
For this, the startup collected 1.2 million bottles from customers and recycled it into clothing, and has launched a collection of 1,500 t-shirts in the market this year.
The innovative solution of processing plastic to make textiles was conceptualised by Atiya Rakyan, who calls herself the Chief Recycling Officer (CRO) of Raw Pressery.
Atiya Rakyan posing with a t-shirt made from plastic waste.
Anuj Rakyan, CEO of Raw Pressery, says,
“The after-effects of poor disposal of plastic waste has proved to be dangerous for the whole ecosystem. So, we as a startup wanted to be environmentally responsible for the plastic we use in our packaging, and recycling was probably the best way to do that."
Launched under a collection called Street to Studio, the t-shirts are made of 95 percent recycled plastic polyester and five percent spandex. Designed by Atiya herself, the t-shirts are made to be wrinkle-free, comfortable, edgy, and reversible.
Making plastic waste fashionable
In 2017, Raw Pressery sponsored an annual food and shopping mela called Sula Festival in Nashik. During the course of the event, Atiya observed tonnes of plastic bottles being thrown in and around the venue. Even the dustbins they set up started overflowing with plastic bottles, she says.
“At that very moment, I began thinking about alternative solutions to manage plastic waste. Initially, I considered replacing plastic with glass bottles. But, after conducting some research, I figured that the carbon footprint in manufacturing glass was a lot more. Hence, recycling plastic was the best available option. When I delved deep into the subject matter, I realised that the possibilities were infinite. Since fashion is something that has always been close to my heart, I decided to go with it,” Atiya tells YourStory.
Raw Pressery collected used plastic bottles from customers to make clothing.
To start with, Atiya conceptualised a “You Return, We Recycle” policy for Raw Pressery, after which the startup partnered with a logistics firm to collect empty bottles from corporate clients.
Several companies like Google, Larsen and Toubro, and Facebook ordered Raw Pressery’s bottled juices on a regular basis. Hence, every time a delivery was executed, used bottles were heaped up.
In addition to this, the startup also started offering a pick-up service for any individual customer who had amassed 20 or more empty bottles.
Seven Raw Pressery plastic bottles were used to make one t-shirt.
“We partnered with a manufacturing facility in Mumbai to recycle seven empty plastic bottles into one piece of everyday wear. The process was very simple. The used bottles were first washed and chopped into flakes. These were later melted and converted to chips before extruding the same into yarn. The yarn was then woven into fabric, stitched and dyed to make t-shirts,” Atiya explains.
The t-shirts, which are wrinkle-free, comfortable, edgy, and reversible, are printed with text aimed at highlighting the importance of recycling plastic. Priced at Rs 1,000 per t-shirt, the clothing range is available online, along with a global delivery option.
Contributing to a plastic-free environment
By attempting to recycle all the plastic produced, Raw Pressery is showing the way forward for other firms to adopt plastic neutrality.
“The usage of plastic cannot be stopped by companies and industries entirely since it is reasonable, flexible, and sturdy. However, they can be recycled into many products like kitchenware, clothing, and carpets, and in turn, be sold in the market. Not only does this lead to environmental conservation, but also a circular economy,” says Atiya.
Raw Pressery chose to go the plastic neutral way by transforming bottles into fabric.
Only 60 percent of plastic waste is recycled in India at present. However, if more individuals and organisations join hands to treat waste as a treasure trove, the country might soon be able to see a 100 percent success.
About Raw Pressery
Anuj has been a health connoisseur for a long time. His brief stint in the US introduced him to the concept of cold-pressed fresh juices. Though initially bootstrapped, Raw Pressery received a small round of angel funding later.
Raw Pressery's range of cold-pressed juices.
Image credit: Raw Pressery
On his foray into this space, he says,
“When I was in college and working outside India, I clearly noticed the lack of fitness-related products in India. Only things made at home was considered to be healthy. Besides, many products that made claims of low fat, no preservative and no sugar were not really telling the truth.”
(Edited by Megha Reddy)