What inspires and excites you about your work?
It is estimated that nearly 95 Million Tons of used clothing are thrown away each year. Such discarded used clothing occupies almost 5% of our ever depleting landfills. Recycling used clothing and textiles decreases the use of natural resources, such as water, chemicals, and energy/petroleum used in creating new clothing and textiles.
Now, imagine a world where our thrash was no longer a significant concern. Overflowing trash bins no longer lined our streets. More and more of our landfills get converted into parks !!! Today this may seem like a Utopic situation, but if we all get together and do our bit to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, we can make this a reality.
How does your process differ?
We recycle unserviceable used clothing. The used clothing is then sorted by our trained workers first according to fiber composition and then according to their colors. We make more than 50 colors for each grade of fiber. All these processes are done manually by women with no education from the neighboring villages. During the cleaning process, we manually remove all foreign objects from the garments. The clips are then put into a rag tearing machine where the fiber is mechanically shredded. The fiber is then blended, if needed, with rPET for added strength during the spinning process. The blend is then spun, either on our advanced woolen spinning system or open-end system, to produce yarns suitable for knitting or weaving.
What do you think are the biggest challenges in the sector?
The biggest challenge in this sector has been the comparison of recycled fibers from 100% post-consumer textiles (PCT) with virgin fibers. Mechanically recycled PCT cannot be compared with virgin fibers mainly in terms of color variations, composition variance, and lead times in delivery.
No two garments in PCT are the same. There are humungous differences in batches of used clothing collections. The tones of the same color are different; the composition of the garments is hugely varied. Controlling all these factors and then producing a commercially acceptable product in a practical manufacturing scenario is one of the biggest challenges.
Brands will need to embrace this variation to save the planet for our future generations.
What advice would you have for brands thinking about sourcing RWS/RDS/GRS/RCS/OCS/CCS?
Brands who are serious about showing their sustainable side must be willing first to understand the production process, the inherent nature of the feedstock raw materials, and various manual steps involved in making this yarn. The recycling process is a very time consuming manual job. Once the concept is understood and accepted by the brands and separate standards for recycled materials are laid down, acceptance of post-consumer recycled materials will shoot up by 100 times. Today, many of the brands we have worked with have clearly understood the process and embraced the limitations as we are doing good for the environment by not throwing old clothes into the landfill and not adding any dyes or chemicals to produce new yarns.
What is your main focus at the moment?
The main focus at present remains to educate the brands about the benefits of embracing mechanically recycled textiles, the savings in terms of land, water, chemicals, and energy utilized in recycling PCT. We are also looking at forming strategic partnerships with brands to set up take-back programs for used garments, providing us a regular feedstock of raw materials and a dedicated customer base. We also intend to set up additional finer count yarn spinning shortly to create a broader clientele base.