Every year 92 million tonnes of textile waste is discarded globally, and more than 80% of this is sent to landfill or for incineration. Berlin startup Kleiderly are rescuing clothes from being buried or burned, and turning them into a brand new durable material that can replace plastics.
In doing so, they’re solving two problems at once: preventing textile waste from creating pollution – from methane in landfill, or air pollutants when it’s burned – while also preventing oil-based plastics from being used.
“The textile industry for me is very personal,” says Kleiderly’s founder, chemical engineer Alina Bassi. “I care about it because I love the industry. In 2018, I was on holiday in Tanzania and I saw firsthand where all of the clothes that we wear end up when we supposedly donate them, and how this affects the local infrastructure. As an engineer with a background in sustainability and life cycle analysis it did not make sense to me that we use so many natural resources and energy to produce fibres, produce them into clothing and ship them halfway around the world to then send them to landfill or incineration two years later. I thought there must be something else we can do about this.”
Kleiderly take discarded fabrics and turn them into a plastic alternative. This new material can be used in the same ways, and with the same machinery, as existing plastics. It’s extremely durable, and can be used to create anything from clothes hangers to furniture – and it’s recyclable multiple times after use.
Alina adds, “I’d love to see the fashion industry make decisions to become truly sustainable. Whether that’s re-evaluating their supply chain, or using sustainable clothing hangers made by us at Kleiderly, taking a stand and setting an example is vital for the big players. We want to enable them to do so by helping to create a circular economy, whereby waste is given value and consumerism becomes more conscious.”
Kleiderly are finalists in 2020’s European Social Innovation Competition, which is organised by the European Commission, with the support of a consortium of organisations. The consortium is led by Nesta Challenges and includes Kennisland, Ashoka Spain, the European Network of Living Labs, and Scholz & Friends. ‘Reimagine Fashion: Changing behaviours for sustainable fashion’ calls on applicants to find new, creative ways to reduce the overall environmental footprint and improve the societal impact of the fashion market, so that we can bring the joy back into fashion, without the harm.