Athletic Clothing Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
Millions of fans around the world have waited for the World Cup with bated breathes. What's new is the fact that nine World Cup teams wear uniforms made out of recycled plastic bottles.
The U.S. and Brazilian teams wear Nike outfits made solely out of plastic bottles from the landfills of Japan and Taiwan.
Not to lose any part of the marketing of athletic apparel to Nike, Coca-Cola has its very own Drink2Wear T-shirts, though the fabric is a blend of 50% cotton and 50% recycled plastic bottles.
Coke sells its plasti-shirts in different stores at different price points, from $7 at Walmart to $20 at L.A. boutique Fred Segal.
The shirts are emblazoned with such phrases as "Coke says rock your rubbish" and "Make your plastic fantastic" and each comes with a little tag that notes how many 20 oz (600ml) bottles are used to make the shirt. There's about 5 bottles in a men's medium shirt.
This technology of making fabric out of plastic bottles is not new seeing that Patagonia has been making clothing out of recycled plastic since 1993.
Turning bottles to fabric is called downcycling; whenever something difficult to make (plastic bottle) is turned into something easy to make (fabric). "Difficult" means energy intensive.
In the current trend of turning plastic bottles into sports wear, Patagonia is actually turning AWAY from plastic bottles; its Synchilla fleece jacket has gone from being made from 100% recycled soda bottles to just 3%, the rest comes from recycled polyesters. This means that Patagonia recycles used polyester clothing into new polyester clothing. Why? Because from a resource-management perspective, it takes less energy to recycle stuff into the same kind of stuff. In other words, it's energy efficient to turn used plastic bottles into new plastic bottles, NOT into fabric.
Herein begins the critique of this greenwashing fad of turning plastic bottles into sports wear, or into any form of clothing for that matter.
There are 32 qualified teams in the World Cup, which means that 9 teams wearing this "green" fabric is a rather a sorry number.
Besides, why use discarded bottles from Taiwan and Japan? Is U.S. recyclable trash not good enough or is it because there are manufacturers there who still use sweatshop labor?
Consider the energy it takes to recycle, the waste from recycling, the labor practices, the packaging, shipping, promotional marketing, and suddenly, the shirts don't look so environmentally friendly anymore.
Nike retails the Brazil jersey for $70.
Understandably, sports fans are willing to pay any amount for a commemorative jersey, but that only goes to show how Nike exploits fans. Nike has found a way to reduce cost at their end by using recycled materials, but it continues to charge premium prices for the merchandise. Obviously, the use of recycled material benefits the environment, but not as much as it benefits Nike.Continued on the next page