CHENNAI: Clear waterbodies, clearer skylines, endangered flora and fauna coming back to life — over the last few months, owing to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, nature seems to have been reclaiming its space on earth, healing itself one day at a time. While this phenomenon has been largely attributed to lack of human interference, the contributions and back-end assistance rendered by eco crusaders and environmentally responsible businesses have also played a small yet vital role in this paradigm shift. One such venture — Ecoline — established in January 2020 by Karur-based father-son duo K Sankar and Senthil Sankar, has been aiding in making the future of the world and the fashion industry more sustainable.
How? The label has been converting discarded plastic PET bottles to produce sportswear. “We started as a small venture — Shree Renga Polymers in 2008 at Kakkavdi on the outskirts of the town mainly to produce PET flakes. In the process, we began collecting plastic bottles from across south India and our supply chain included everyone from rag pickers to organised traders,” shares Sankar, a polymer technologist from IIT-Delhi and managing partner at the firm.
Gradually, the company forayed into adopting new technologies and techniques and decided to integrate the flakes into a product called polyester staple fibre, which finds application in the manufacturing of fibre. Since then, the company has not just been making the fibre but has also been involved in its dyeing process. “We do all end-to-end functions — from sorting, crushing the bottles, melting, yarn spinning, knitting to making the garments. Using German technology, PET flakes are melted in high temperature to produce fibre. At the end of the process, the up-cycled fibre resembles cotton. The fibre is then put into the process of spinning yarns, then knit and then converted into garments,” says Senthil, managing partner of the firm.
What’s unique about the process, Senthil says, is that not a single drop of water is used for dyeing. “Traditionally, the textile is a water-intensive industry and the dyeing process usually uses a lot of water and has accounted for water pollution. But in our process, we use what’s called the dope dyeing technology, wherein the colours are blended while producing fibre without using water,” he claims.
Two years back, when the duo invested in a garment factory to manufacture apparel for the domestic and export market, they decided to connect the manufacturing and supply chain and launch a venture that would do both. “Ecoline was born as a result of this idea.
Now, we are currently producing four products (t-shirts). Two for men and two for women and will soon be launching more. This is the most sustainable fashion one can find. We use cotton that is derived from sustainable agricultural practices and polyester yarn from the recycled PET bottles,” he details.
On average, around 20 tonnes of fibre is produced a day. “By blending organic cotton yarn and fibre yarn, we produce T-shirts and other ready-made garments mainly for all types of sports, including football, cricket and tennis,” says Senthil. The line has also been manufacturing face masks with sustainable yarn. “These masks have an antimicrobial finish. Going forward, we want to not just manufacture sustainable clothing but take this idea and use this opportunity to champion the cause and create a culture for upcycling plastics,” says Sankar.
- The fabric is made from recycled PET bottles and organic cotton.
- Approximately six water bottles are used to create a T-shirt.
- Around 10 lakh plastic bottles, which could fill a football stadium, have been crushed, recycled and up-cycled so far to produce fibre yarn. Since 2008, the company had recycled about 5,000 crore bottles.