Russian fashion brand 99Recycle is tackling St Petersburg’s mountains of garbage by creating an entire supply chain out of it.
The company collects all manner of different recyclable materials before turning them into bespoke clothing and accessories as well as items for school, such as pencil and laptop cases, backpacks, bags, and even skateboards and bicycles.
The fashion industry is one of the single biggest polluters both in volume and types of waste produced. All the material 99Recycle sources comes from several large landfill sites just outside the city. Most landfills in Russia are substantially larger and more poorly maintained than those elsewhere in Europe; one in Moscow is 10 storeys high.
Working with local charities — which clean and sort the plastic — 99Recycle’s specialist sowers handcraft each item, often using castoffs such as old trampolines and advertising banners. For larger plastic pieces, the company built a custom 3D printer. Olesya Kulik, a designer at 99Recycle, told Euronews, “The process of preparing the materials is more complicated than for ordinary materials. Most of our time is taken up in preparation, because we need to clean it, make it even, select it, reject some materials.”
So far, the company has collected more than 60 tonnes of discarded plastic. It won Recycle/Upcycle Project of the Year as part of the 2020 St Petersburg Awards.
Throwaway culture is strong in Russia, and so apart from making things, 99Recycle hosts classes and lectures on sustainability and different ways to recycle, hoping to coach the city out of its wasteful habits. Eco-education is an important part of 99Recycle’s ethos, and it works closely with other organisations to help improve their sustainability. Part of this involves helping businesses reduce potential pollution by upcycling worn and broken items into new products.
Elsewhere, a number of new fashion labels have popped up to make full use of clothing and accessory ‘waste’. Among them is Swedish brand Mehrotra, which works closely with Indian suppliers to turn sari offcuts into one-offs, such as bags and scarves. Another is the New Zealand Merino Company, which is helping growers ensure their raw materials are as close as possible to having a neutral eco-footprint.
TOP A recycled skateboard and a recycled plastic chair
BOTTOM A recycled backpack