In partnership with Ecoalf
Ecoalf arose from one man’s frustration with the excessive use of the world’s natural resources and the amount of waste produced by industrialised countries.
Ecoalf’s upcycled raw materials range from ocean plastic to coffee grounds
ECOALF is a sustainable fashion brand whose objective is to reduce the negative impact of the fashion industry and the indiscriminate use of natural resources through different innovative and sustainable processes. They say their end goal is to create a new generation of responsible products with a level of quality and design to match the best in the market. Their ingenious use of upcycled raw materials ranges from ocean plastic and old tyres to, believe it or not, coffee grounds!
A truly sustainable fashion brand without sacrificing aesthetics
Spanish clothing company, Ecoalf, is proof that creating a truly sustainable fashion brand is possible without sacrificing aesthetics. Where others see trash, they see potential luxury goods. Thanks to the most advanced recycling technologies, Ecoalf have been able to transform waste such as fishing nets, plastic bottles, old tyres and even post-consumed coffee grounds, into high quality fabrics — and subsequently into fashionable garments, footwear and accessories.
“Ecoalf arose in 2009 from my frustration with the excessive use of the world’s natural resources and the amount of waste produced by industrialised countries,” says Javier Goyeneche, President and Founder.
“Ecoalf symbolises what I believe the fabrics and products of the new generations should be, a new fashion/lifestyle brand that integrates breakthrough technology to create clothing and accessories made entirely from recycled materials with the same quality, design and technical properties as the best non-recycled products. That way we show that there is no need to use our world’s natural resources in a careless way”.
Ecoalf is the first fashion brand in Spain to become a certified B Corps corporation, and has been recognised for its ‘compromise to the people and the planet’. B Corps inspire all businesses to compete not only to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. There are 2,441 Certified B Corporations in the world with a single, unifying goal – to redefine success in business.
Upcycling the oceans: now in Thailand Already a success in Spanish coastal waters, in October 2016, the Ecoalf Foundation began replicating the Upcycling the Oceans project in Thailand. Ultimately, the raw materials made from the plastic waste removed from the sea will be transformed into stylish fashion items and accessories. Source: Ecoalf.com
Upcycling the Oceans: Spain and now Thailand
The Upcycling the Oceans project first began in Spain in September 2015. During this initial phase of the project, 9 fishing ports from the provinces of Castellón and Alicante decided to collaborate and they managed to remove more than 60 tonnes of trash from the sea.
In June 2016, Ecoembes joined the project and thanks to their involvement, the project extended to the provinces of Girona, Barcelona, Tarragona and Valencia. So far they’ve managed to involve 28 ports, 14 of which are from the Community of Valencia, 14 from Catalonia, amounting to a total of 441 sea trawlers.
Every day the fisherman deposit the garbage collected in the containers. The 800-litre capacity containers are hauled every fifteen days. The garbage from each port is sent to the recycling plant where it is classified. The recovered PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is stored, while the rest of the debris is recycled using conventional methods.
The bales of PET are taken to a recycler that cleans and transform them into pellets by using sophisticated technological processes referred to as polymerisation. The pellets obtained are between 3–6mm in size and they are prepared for the next step in the extrusion process.
Once Ecoalf’s required purity conditions and technical properties have been met, a continuous filament is created through the extrusion and spinning of the pellets.
Lastly, the thread is used to produce fabrics with properties and design of the same quality as top-of-the-line non-recycled materials.
Upcycling the Oceans: Thailand
The “Upcycling the Oceans, Thailand” project runs for three years, from 2017 to 2019. The first year focused on education and promoting the concept of responsible tourism while conducting waste management activities such as collecting, segregating, and transforming plastic waste. It then uses innovative eco-friendly technology in a production process to transform the raw material during the project’s second year.
Ultimately, the raw materials made from the plastic waste removed from the sea will be transformed into stylish fashion items and accessories.
This project promotes the collection and management of plastic waste in Thailand’s coastal and marine tourist areas. Project activities include scuba divers collecting plastic waste from underwater as well as other volunteers collecting plastic waste from beaches.
What was that about coffee grounds?
Coffee is not just a drink: now you can wear it!
The average daily consumption of coffee is 3.1 cups per day. Did you know that coffee is not only for drinking? You can also wear it! The resultant fabric is soft, light, flexible and breathable and can also be use to produce an outer shell that is water resistant. The fabric, thanks to the coffee grounds, becomes UV-resistant, wicks water away, keeps you cool and it has odor control properties.
Used coffee grounds are picked up from a well-known chain of diners. The compound is still wet, so the first step when taken to the recycling plant is to dry the coffee grounds and extract any oil it contains. Then the coffee grounds are then ground further to a size of nano-powder. This powder is then prepared in master batches to be mixed with recycled polyester polymers in order to create yarn which is fast-drying, UV protective and had odour control properties.
The grounds from 20 cups of coffee can produce 1 metre of Ecoalf fabric.
How, you may ask, does this tiny coffee ground have the ability to provide these features? Roasting is the answer. When roasted, the coffee bean swells, which means that the space inside the bean expands.
During brewing, hot water removes materials that are clogging up the spaces, then finally the patented S.Café® process maximises the functional performance capacity of the coffee ground.
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Flip-flops from old tyres Recycling rubber tyres means that millions of scrap tyres are no longer dumped in landfills or left illegally in lakes, abandoned lots, along the side of the road and in sensitive habitats. Instead, more of these tyres are being recycled and reused annually. Recycling saves impressive amounts of energy, which ultimately reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Using recycled rubber in molded products, creates a substantially smaller carbon footprints ? compared to using virgin plastic by up to 20x Source: Ecoalf
What about micro-plastics? Won’t these garments release microfibres when washed?
The biggest source of plastic micro-litter comes from the plastic macro-litter — the small comes from the big — and unfortunately no synthetic garment is completely free from releasing microfibres.
However, not all fabrics are equal in this matter. This is why ECOALF chooses less harmful yarns to create their products, and conducts ongoing research to tackle the issue. So far they have eliminated the most harmful fibres such as fleece, micro fleece, and “polars” and are working with continuous fibres which have the lowest impact as they shed the least microfibres.
ECOALF OFFER ADVICE ON HOW CUSTOMERS CAN HELP REDUCE THE RELEASE OF MICROFIBERS INTO THE OCEAN:
LOW TEMPERATURE WASHING:
Washing temperature is a factor to be taken into account when analysing the release of microfibers. Washing clothes at low temperatures can decrease the number of microfibers released during the laundry cycle.
The kind of detergent used can reduce the amount of microfibers released. Liquid detergent is the best option. In tests, powered detergents released a larger amount of microfibers than liquid detergents.
Perhaps the most obvious — by reducing washing frequency, the amount of microfibers released is also reduced.
Are there plans to recycle the clothes after use?
Yes, Ecoalf say there are future plans for recycling. They are developing a repair service and store collection to close the circle and recycle garments. In the case of used garments, they plan to recycle them into high-quality materials again for future projects.
Ecoalf: sustainable, durable and fashionable clothes and accessories for men, women and children
To find out more about Ecoalf and to look at the full range of clothing, footwear and accessories, check out their website.