August 25, 2015

Pure Waste recycles waste into shirts

Anders Bengs (left) and Jukka Pesola say that, according to their calculations, Pure Waste has saved 200 million litres of freshwater by making products out of recycled cotton.
Anders Bengs (left) and Jukka Pesola say that, according to their calculations, Pure Waste has saved 200 million litres of freshwater by making products out of recycled cotton.
Karolina Miller

Pure Waste makes 100 per cent recycled clothing from textile waste. In a year and a half, the company has saved 200 million litres of freshwater by making products out of recycled cotton. This innovative Finnish company is now building its own recycling plant in India.

The clothing industry does not have the best reputation around. The shady side of the clothing industry is a much-discussed topic – terrible quality, deplorable working conditions and factories that are in bad shape. It’s something Jukka Pesola, one of Pure Waste’s founders, is fully aware of.

Pesola travelled to Asia for the first time at the turn of the century to scout out factories for clothing production.

The focus of textile production at that point had switched from Europe to Asia.

Pesola saw problems with that. According to him, more than 10 to 15 per cent of textiles was going to waste in connection with clothing manufacture.

Anders Bengs had encountered the same problem. In 2006 he was involved in establishing a company called Costo that manufactured hats from leftover fabric.

“Jukka was Costo’s first customer,” says Bengs. “He thought our business looked promising. He has been a part of our operations ever since.”

Pure Waste’s new clothes

Currently the company sells the same products at its founding store in Helsinki and on its online store: white, black and grey hoodies and t-shirts for men and women.

Currently the company sells the same products at its founding store in Helsinki and on its online store: white, black and grey hoodies and t-shirts for men and women.

Karolina Miller

In 2013, Pesola, Bengs and three other partners set up Pure Waste, a company that makes high-quality fabrics from textile waste.

The company’s goal is to make 100 per cent recycled yarn without weakening the quality of the fibres.

“When we started out, we decided to do this right and that the fabric had to be 100 per cent recycled. We actually would have had significantly more material options if we had decided to mix new materials in with the recycled,” Pesola recounts.

The company has been profitable. According to its own calculations, Pure Waste has saved 200 million litres of freshwater by making products out of recycled cotton. The saved water comes from recycling: farmers require an average of roughly 11 000 litres of water for every kilo of cotton.

Savings are also achieved by not dying the fabrics; instead, the textiles are sorted according to colour and quality. To make a black t-shirt, for example, black textile waste is collected and processed into black yarn.

Currently the company sells simple pieces of clothing on its online store: white, black and grey hoodies and t-shirts for men and women. When buying a t-shirt, the customer receives a friendly reminder of the amount of water saved: a total of 2 700 litres.

Pure Waste hopes to expand in future with the help of co-operation lines. They have received a lot of enquiries from major clothing brands.

“Every company wants to operate sustainably. That’s where future markets lie,” Bengs stresses.

One Earth is not enough

Although Pure Waste did not invent recycling, the company strives to advance recycling technology and the way textile waste is used.

“Recycling is no longer about finding the cheapest possible way to come up with some kind of mess; instead, the focus is on achieving the best possible end result,” says Pesola.

Recycling will increase in future also due to a lack of material.

Recycling is no longer about finding the cheapest possible way to come up with some kind of mess; instead, the focus is on achieving the best possible end result.

“As consumption in the West rises, the world’s most populous countries will develop and their consumption will grow. We will have to be able to grow more food crops and more cotton. The equation just doesn’t add up,” says Pesola.

In India, this fact has already been taken into account. The country is trying to recycle everything. For example, more than 95 per cent of paperboard is recycled. In Finland, however, most textile waste ends up at the landfill.

“More than 95 per cent of textile fibre can be recycled. So why isn’t it?” asks Bengs.

In addition to being ecological, recycled clothing is also more affordable. According to Bengs, it’s 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than clothing made from new materials – provided that production volumes are high enough.

The company is in the process of building its own factory in the Coimbatore area of India. The goal is to have their own vertical line up and running within a year, bringing waste in one door and a finished product out the other.

Some 80 to 120 employees will be hired locally for the first factory. The total number of employees on the vertical line will eventually rise to 500.

According to Bengs and Pesola, the company intends to respect the local laws, but will also pay attention to environmental and ethical values.

“We want to offer everything to our employees – from an employment contract to meals at the workplace,” says Pesola.

Pure Waste hopes to expand in future with the help of co-operation lines. They have received a lot of enquiries from major clothing brands.

Pure Waste hopes to expand in future with the help of co-operation lines. They have received a lot of enquiries from major clothing brands.

Karolina Miller

Text: Karolina Miller

Looking for more good news? Subscribe to our newsletter

Share: