Manufacturing Handbags with Recycled Plastic Bottles: UQLELE experience

In UQLELE we use fabrics made with recycled plastic bottles for:

- the bags linen:

 

 

- the majority of the flaps:

 

 

Some raw numbers about PET

Petcore, the European trade association that fosters the collection and recycling of PET, reported that in Europe alone, 1.45 million tonnes of PET bottles were collected in 2010 – more than 48.3% of all bottles.

We published recently a post linking to Chris Jordan’s work whose goal is to visualize the numbers with photos.

In the United States, 2 billions of plastic bottles are used every 5 minutes.

Collecting and sorting

Plastic bottles are separated form other materials and classified by color. They are crushed, cleaned and dried. Then, other elements such as taps and labels are spotted and extracted using different methods.

The remaining PET flakes are used as the raw material for a range of products that would otherwise be made of polyester. Examples include polyester fibres (a base material for the production of clothing, pillows, carpets, etc.), polyester sheets, strapping, or back into PET bottles etc.

Manufacturing fibres

The raw material (flakes) is melted and pressed through a screen to form long fibres.

Once again, these fibres need to be mechanically transformed to get something that looks very much like cotton balls.

From this point on, the process consists in combining the fibers to give them the necessary strength and then weaving.

 

The following video clearly explains the process:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyF9MxlcItw

 

Our experience

As explained in the previous video, collecting the bottles is done locally, but manufacturing the fabrics is often done in Asia. Google: “buy recycled polyester” and you will see!

Obviously, we were not satisfied with this at UQLELE. It looks like you need to be cautious with the “made with recycled plastic bottles” label…

We wanted to buy to a European provider and manufacturer. And we had to look for it for a while!!! Finally we found one in France who provides us with high quality fabrics.

We use 2 different types of textiles: a satin for the linen and a more heavy piece of fabric for the flaps and other outer pieces.

We buy white sheets (or nearly white, as they are not treated with whitener) of textile. We are then able to print them locally. But we will talk about this in an other post!

 

UQLELE

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