Oil is the largest polluter in the world. It may come as a surprise to some that the world’s second largest polluter is the textile industry. And even though almost all textiles can be recycled, 85% are dumped in land-fills. In 2013 alone, 12.8 million tons of textiles went to landfills and the amount has been increasing rapidly every year since. As if this were not bad enough, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt alone require 5,000 gallons of water to make. As a result, the textile industry is the contributor to billions of tons of wastewater every year, a vast amount of which is not treated and is now polluting our oceans. In addition to the untenable wastewater produced by textiles, the cultivation of fibres requires billions of liters of water; just one kilo of cotton, for instance, requires 10,000 liters of water.
However, hope can be found in the many initiatives now taking place around the world. Recycling is being adopted by industries and individuals across the spectrum, and upcycling has finally hit the major fashion runways of the world. It is a less known fact that India is a cynosure of textile waste recycling and upcycling. Every day, large shipping containers bring in billions of items of second-hand clothing and discarded fashion from the US and Europe. Panipat, known as the world’s “cast off capital,” is home to over 200 textile waste recycling, upcycling, and trading businesses. Recycled and upcycled textiles can be used to make new apparel, fabrics for industrial use, fiber for insulation products, and material for fiberboards, upholstery, mattresses, blankets, bandages, tissue paper, throws, mats, felt products, etc. Panipat alone generates Rs 1,000 crores of annual revenues from recycling and upcycling.
India has a surprisingly remarkable culture and history of recycling and upcycling. India recycles 90% of her PET waste beating Europe, the US, and Japan; India is also the number one hub for recycling textile waste, beating Russia and Pakistan. All textile waste is first “mutilated” before being shipped to India. Once the shipping containers reach the port town of Kandla, they are taken by trucks to hubs like Panipat. In the regions of West Bengal, Orissa, and Bihar, old textiles have been patched and embroidered over using “kantha” stitching to make blankets and outfits. In Jammu and Kashmir, nomadic tribes called Bakkarwal and Gujjar, embroider felt blankets with recycled acrylic yarn to make rugs and bags. Different tribes across Gujarat and Rajasthan use patchwork, embroidery, and mirror work to upcycle their old fabrics and make new garments, and the Godhari tribals of Maharashtra and Goa produce some of the most unique quilts to be found anywhere in the world with their waste fabric.
Our upcycled fabric has been sourced from the textile weaving hubs of Bihar where all textile waste – either generated from production or imported from abroad – is collected and broken down into yarn. Matka yarn is derived from mulberry silk waste and some types of matka yarn are derived from katan silk waste. Chocho yarn is derived from cotton, linen, and viscose waste combined. First the waste is broadly segregated by type – silk, cotton, viscose, etc – and then by colour; then it is transferred to villagers, primarily women, who are commissioned to produce the yarn using a drop spindle. If a woman works an entire day without a break, she can produce 2 kilos of yarn, which is what is required to make approximately 4 meters of fabric. Our upcycled fabric is the product of weaving thick strands of chocho yarn onto a linen and cotton warp.