10 best brands turning recycled plastic bottles into clothes
Our single use plastic habit has to stop. And although recycling is not the answer, repurposing one of the worst offenders into a new item keeps bottles from landfill
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know there’s a horrifying amount of plastic waste floating in the world’s oceans: around eight million metric tonnes of the stuff. And if things continue as they are, it’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more of it than fish in the sea.
Our single-use plastic addiction is declining thanks to plastic bag taxes and the rise of reusable coffee cups and water bottles, but it’s still a massive problem. And while recycling doesn’t solve everything, it’s certainly going to help – especially if plastic is fished out of the sea to be reused.
Jumping on this bandwagon are many clothing brands who are tapping into our new-found consciousness for the environment. Don’t be too cynical – many of these companies are surf brands who see the problem firsthand on our beaches, coastlines and in our oceans, and want to fight back to save the ecosystem they love.
The most common type of recycled plastic is PET bottles. To be reused, the bottles are sorted, cleaned and stripped of labels and caps, melted down into little pellets and then spun into yarn to make garments.
From swimwear and snow wear to jumpers and backpacks, here’s our tried and tested roundup of the companies who are making something useful out of all of our plastic waste, and saving it from landfill.
Batoko cockatoo swimsuit: £40, Batoko
Having already recycled the equivalent weight of 220,000 plastic bottles, Batoko uses collected ocean waste to make its gorgeous swimsuits, which come in just nine bold designs in a bid to also combat the perils of fast fashion. All of the British brand’s incredible prints use non-toxic inks and are created digitally, which saves water and energy and produces little waste. Of course, everything is packaged and delivered in compostable bags too, giving them extra brownie points. Our favourite is the cockatoo print that’s just made for holidays on tropical beaches. Each suit is lined, with a low scoop back and a medium cut leg. The brand has recently – after popular demand – brought back its children’s range too.
Lefrik multi wash bag: £17.50, Lefrik
This Spanish brand has been making bags out recycled PET bottles since 2012 and pride themselves on being functional, fashionable and eco-friendly. If you need them to tick any more boxes, they’re also vegan too (and Peta-approved). This waterproof washbag – great for travelling and any spillages that might occur while doing so – has four separate removable compartments, easily attached by poppers, which is great if you only want to use part of it. We also liked that it could be hung up with the top loop.
Brothers We Stand recycled sweatshirt: £35, Brothers We Stand
Proving that being ethical doesn’t put a stop to fashionable menswear is the store Brothers We Stand. As well as sourcing and selling other ethical and sustainable menswear brands on its website and in its Bristol outlet, including Elvis & Kresse and Jollie socks, it also has its own label.
Every product from Brothers We Stand has a transparent footprint and Soil Association accreditation. Using a blend of recycled cotton and PET bottles, the crewneck sweatshirts feature classic ribbed cuffs and a fleecy inner, which are created from waste cuttings that are shredded and turned back into reusable fibres. It’s an easily wearable jumper that quickly becomes a wardrobe staple.
Kanken Fjallraven backpack: £67.50, Surfdome
What started as a simple school bag in Sweden in 1978 designed to help school children carry lots of books has become a well-loved design around the world. It’s now sold in a huge array of colours and fabrics, and this special edition is made from 11 recycled plastic bottles. It is also dyed using “spindye”, which uses much less water than the traditional way of dying materials.
O’Neill hybrid mesh leggings, £59.99, O’Neill
O’Neill founder and Californian surfer, Jack O’Neill, is often credited as creating the wetsuit. And never shying away from innovation, O’Neill has had an eco-friendly activewear line since 2017, called Our Ocean Blue. All of these items are made using recycled bottles and have been created with the help of New York brand Bionic, who create the threads from plastic recovered from beaches. The first line of clothing in the range is estimated to have recovered 200,000 bottles from shorelines worldwide.
And staying true to the brand’s form, most of the items come in a range of amazing prints and colours, with matching leggings and sports bras. They’re stretchy, comfy and can be used for most activities from yoga to running, as well as casualwear if you’re not working out.
Picture Organic snow pants: £166, Surfdome
Set up by three snow and skate-mad school friends in France in 2008, Picture Organic has been sustainability focused from the start. All of its products – designed for skiing, skating, surfing and outdoors – are either made from recycled plastic, organic cotton or material scraps that would otherwise be burned, which are all responsibly sourced and free of harmful chemicals too.
These lightweight pants are pretty technical: we especially like the snow skirt, the leg vents and the fact they’re vegan. We also like the slim-fit design, but they do come up pretty snug, so think about going up a size. Available in five colours with matching jackets.
Riley Studio oversized hoody: £90, Riley Studio
Riley Studio uses a range of waste and recycled materials. This oversized hoody is made in Portugal from a mixture of recycled plastic bottles and cotton. This keeps materials from landfill and reduces the carbon footprint production of the item by 75 per cent. We love its baggy fit and super soft fleece feel on the inside, and that it’s a gender neutral hoody that’s also available in reversed colours.
Quiksilver highline boardshorts: £60, Quiksilver
As one of the original surf brands, hailing from Australia in 1969, Quiksilver are best known for their surfing essential board shorts – and these are the modern day version. Teaming up with Repreve and using recycled PET nylon, around nine bottles go into each pair of shorts. They have so far used more than 109 million bottles – and counting – since starting the line in January 2012.
Choose from 42 different designs and expect all the normal features such as the v-shaped waist, tie fastening and fast drying.
Patagonia down sweater jacket: £200, Patagonia
For the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the brand had always been about sustainability. And that’s why its classic down sweater jackets are made from 100 per cent recycled polyester. It’s also made with goose down for the best insulation, but Patagonia promises to use only traceable non-live plucked feathers. The brand has also remodelled its long-sleeve logo tee – renamed the responsibility-tee – each of which is now made from 4.8 plastic bottles.
Planks Good Times eco snow jacket: £199.99, Surfdome
Founded by ex-professional British skier Jim Adlington, everything by this brand is made for skiers, by skiers. This limited edition eco jacket is made entirely from recycled bottles, using recycled yarn from Repreve – the world’s leading recycled yarn manufacturer. Repreve has already recycled 10bn bottles and aims to double that by 2020.
The jacket has a waterproof rating of 15,000mm (high enough to withstand most snowfalls) and has fully taped seams to keep out water. However, it’s also breathable, and has pit zips, a helmet compatible hood, and a powder skirt with large front and side pockets. We love the relaxed fit too. It’s a durable, reliable jacket that will see you through season after season.
Verdict: Clothes made from recycled plastic
We love the Batoko swimsuit for many reasons: its amazing prints, great cut, use of plastic waste from the ocean and its limited range of designs to combat fast fashion. It’s comfy and you’ll get loads of compliments about it, too. We also really love the credentials of Picture Organic for its great designs and true dedication to sustainability from the outset.