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Uniqlo to sell clothing made from plastic bottles

Uniqlo has announced that it has started to create clothing from recycled plastic bottles.

From Spring/Summer 2020, the fashion retailer will begin selling its sweat-wicking DRY-EX products made from polyester fibres derived from reclaimed PET bottles.

It will also begin collecting Ultra Light Down products from Japanese customers later this year. Uniqlo is known for these feather-light jackets, which will be collected and then processed through a machine to extract the raw down materials.

At a press conference at London, Tadashi Yanai, Uniqlo founder and chairman, president and CEO of Fast Retailing, said: “Uniqlo is often mistaken as fast fashion, but it’s not fast fashion, we will never ever offer disposable clothing.”

The president of the Japanese clothing giant said the industry needs to leverage scientific knowledge to offer highly functional clothing that will remain in customers’ wardrobes for a long time.

The retailer is continuing its working relationship with Japanese manufacturer Toray, which also produces carbon fibre for Boeing 787 airplanes. Its most recent innovations are centred around sustainability, with the two sustainability announcements made to coincide with the launch of an art and science exhibition at Somerset House.

Akihiro Nikkaku, president of Toray Industries, noted how Japanese culture sees people using products until the very end of their lifecycle. He added: “At Toray we challenge ourselves to find solutions to global social issues with our belief that ‘materials can change our lives’. By promoting businesses that contribute to sustainability together with our partner Uniqlo, we aim to create new value and realise a prosperous society through LifeWear.”

Essential Retail was given a guided tour of the exhibition which featured a hands-on experience with materials featured in Uniqlo’s clothing ranges. For example, the DRY-EX polyester products require four two-litre PET bottles to make one t-shirt.

While the fibres made from plastic bottles have been available for some time, it has been hard to make clothes as the fibres have not been fine enough and are often contaminated. Toray uses a filtering technology to overcome this challenge.

However, the production has only just started and the company has yet to measure the amount of energy needed to break down the plastic bottles first into plastic pellets and then polyester fibres which can be made into clothing.

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