For those looking for one of the most environment-friendly fabrics available these days, an organic cotton brand won’t be the best stop anymore. A new material called Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate, RPET, has left organic cotton, considered to have the lowest carbon footprint, way behind. The new material has a carbon footprint 50 per cent lower than organic cotton.
Environmentalist and entrepreneur Roshan Baid has created what he calls a Wonder Tee — this means one essentially wears recycled soda bottles, water bottles and food jars, processed to make the environment-friendly and cost-effective RPET.
“The Wonder Tee is made from six to eight plastic waste bottles,” says Baid. “A kilogram of RPET can keep 60 water bottles out of landfill,” he adds.
These T-shirts are also softer and lighter than normal ones. “Generally, T-shirts are made of polyester — a man-made fibre, production of which involves huge quantities of water, chemicals and use of fossil fuels; moreover, the raw materials and by-products are toxic and pollute water and air, causing several health hazards,” he explains.
It was while travelling in Europe that Baid got inspired to give this project a go. “They use recycled plastic to make things like quilts. Another thing I came across was this very idea of making plastic into yarn and I knew I had to take this up and make a difference,” he says.
“We started on March 18, 2016. We wanted to look at the value of our product. Polyester is not that good for Indian customers as summers here are very hot. But this T-shirt can be worn in any weather,” he adds.
When the idea of Wonder Tees was germinating, some of Baid’s friends did not believe that T-shirts could be so light. “They did not believe it could weigh below 100 gm. So I made some T-shirts for my friends and gifted it to them in pencil boxes,” he says.
“We also save 25 litres of water per T-shirt as the dyeing process is different. Most mills use a lot of water for dyeing clothes and when this water is disposed, it ends up polluting water resources like rivers.”
The waste generated in the process of manufacturing the Wonder Tee is also treated and reused.
While the core product of his start-up company Alcis Sports is Wonder Tee, Baid also plans to create other garments out of this fabric. "We are already in talks with some fashion designers and hopefully will venture into making designer wear as well, hopefully in 2018.” While the plans to manufacture other garments are there, he says, “The tee will remain our main focus.”
The company is now producing 3,000 to 4,000 T-shirts daily but it was not smooth sailing for him initially.
“Since we were producing it for the first time in India, I faced a lot of quality concerns. The processing of this yarn was complex. It took some time to reach perfection,” he says.
The collected PET bottles are first sterilised, dried and crushed into small chips, which are heated and passed through a spinneret to form strings of yarn. The yarn is wound up in spools and the fibre produced is then passed through a crimping machine to create a fluffy woolly texture. It is then baled, dyed and knitted into polyester fabric. These T-shirts also have anti-microbial and anti-static finishes.