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Kleiderly: Sustainable plastic made from old clothes

Kleiderly from Germany competed against more than 180 startups, making it to the Green Alley Award finals! The Berlin-based Startup has the mission to solve two environmental problems at once: the growing amount of garments that go to landfill or incineration each year as well as the rising demand for oil-based thermoplastics that wastes non-renewable resources. Instead of turning old plastic into ever more new clothing, the startup recycles old clothing and textile waste and turns it into a sustainable plastic alternative that can be used to produce any kind of plastic goods, from eyewear, to clothes hangers or even furniture.

Meet founder Alina Bassi, one of the top entrepreneurs of the Forbes 30 under 30 2020 list, at the Green Alley Award final and get to know more about her revolutionary technology!

Alina, you are the founder of Kleiderly. Tell us why clothes hangers are a solution to our environmental problems!

Clothing hangers are the plastic straw of the fashion industry. They are made from toxic polystyrene, and 8 billion of them end up in landfill sites. At Kleiderly we replace this plastic with a new material made directly from textile waste. Did you know that 87% of all material ever used for clothing end up in landfills or being burnt in incinerators? Once they end up in landfills, they cannot decompose for over 200 years because our clothes are made from plastics such as polyester, or contain blends made up of synthetic fibres. We solve this by diverting these textiles and using them to replace plastics derived from crude oil. By doing so, we create a truly circular economy within the fashion industry using our award winning, patent pending process.

Clothing hangers are just the beginning, we also replace plastic within anti-theft tags made originally from ABS plastic, and we are starting our own direct to consumer product line of eyewear, made from textiles to replace acetate. If the EU were to implement a truly circular economy, we could halve CO2 emissions by 2030. We are at the beginning of this movement, and hope that many more brands see the benefits of creating a circular economy. 

You and your team are on a mission to eliminate waste – mainly in the fashion industry. Do you also plan to come up with an end-of-life solution for the products made of your plastic alternative, for example the hangers? 

Absolutely. For our new product line we have a take back system in place, whereby customers can return their unwanted products to us and get a financial reward on their next purchase. We believe that brands should be responsible for the products they produce, and we want to enable that. Our material is recyclable multiple times, so hangers made from our material can be recycled in the same way that plastic is recycled now. What’s even better, is that our material has lower energy needs when used in machinery, therefore it is energy saving also in its usage.

It seamlessly integrates into existing plastics machinery, therefore making it simple for plastics users to use. Every second, an entire truck full of textiles goes to landfills and if we aren’t careful, with the 100 billion garments we produce per year, we could soon be drowning in clothing waste. It is our mission to reuse this, to create a truly circular economy.  

You were listed as one of the Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2020 in the manufacturing and industry category. What does this mention mean to you personally as well as to you as a female founder in the startup business?

Being recognised by Forbes, particularly within the Manufacturing and Industry category, was so incredibly rewarding. It gave me the credibility within the manufacturing world, as well as the fire to keep going as a founder. Being a female engineer and woman of colour, it is rare to go into the world of Chemical Engineering, working in factories within waste recycling. Only 16% of engineering students are women. Whilst the numbers have been increasing over the years, we still have a long way to go.

I want to encourage other young women within the world of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), that a career in this space is meaningful and that you can truly make a difference by breaking stereotypes. The Forbes acknowledgement is certainly a milestone that has helped me raise awareness on this issue. We need women, and in particular a range of diverse women in STEM. They are crucial for innovation and progression. 

Want to see these six startups with their outstanding circular economy ideas live and ask them some questions? Register now and meet our finalists online on 22nd April 2021, 5pm CET.

Source Green Alley Award

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