Alina Bassi founded Kleiderly in 2019 to combat two major environmental issues: clothing waste and the use of oil-based plastics. Through recycling clothing and creating products which circumvent the use of oil-based plastics, Bassi and her team provide sustainable solutions to lower the carbon footprint of the fashion industry. Aware sat down with the Bassi to explore her motivations for founding a Berlin-based start-up, and the complex process behind manufacturing products from recycled textile waste.
aware_: Alina, where did your sustainability journey begin?
Alina: I have been passionate about sustainability from a young age and decided to become a chemical engineer to work in renewable energy. During my career as an engineer, I worked to design factories that recycle coffee waste into biofuels, and household waste into energy. My journey with textile waste began with a trip to Tanzania. Having worked as a chemical engineer in the waste sector for a while, and visiting many different sites where waste is collected or recycled, I hadn’t seen textile waste firsthand. Whilst in Tanzania I saw used clothing being sold on second hand markets, and it got me thinking about what happens to textile waste once it reaches its end-of-life. I was shocked to learn that 87% of all materials used for clothing end up in landfills or incinerators, and that the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon emissions.
aware_: What was your main motivation for founding Kleiderly?
Alina: Every second, an entire truck full of textiles ends up in a landfill. As most of our clothing is made of synthetic fibres, it cannot biodegrade, and sits around for over 200 years. With the fast fashion industry producing vast amounts of clothing, we now produce 100 billion garments a year, whilst the average lifetime of an item of clothing is falling below 2.5 years. I’ve made it my mission to solve this problem with Kleiderly.
At this present moment, there is very limited technology available to recycle or upcycle garments into new fabrics or products. We solve this problem with our patent pending solution, turning unwanted textiles into a plastic alternative, hence replacing plastics. This solves two environmental problems at once, the textile waste problem, and the clothing waste problem. Our material can be used to produce anything from clothing hangers to eyewear, creating a truly circular economy. With Kleiderly we give clothing waste another chance at a useful life.
aware_: Why tackle the fashion industry specifically?
Alina: The fashion industry is the second biggest polluting sector in the world, after the oil industry. It produces more emissions that shipping and aviation industries combined. With fast fashion, we are now producing 100 billion garments a year and this number is expected to double by the year 2050 to keep up with our demand. This industry needs innovative solutions to reduce the carbon impact and become more sustainable.
aware_: Could you explain the manufacturing process of the sunglasses? Where is the material sourced?
Alina: We locally source the textiles, by working with retailers and local charities such as Textilhafen, to collect this waste. Textilhafen receives 10,000 kgs of waste a week from locals within Berlin. Their goal is to donate this clothing to the homeless, but unfortunately, 80% of this clothing is not of good enough quality to donate. We help them by giving this waste a new life. First, clothing is collected from retailers and local charities and presorted. We recycle blends of polyester, cotton, viscose and elastane, which make up 85% of all fabric blends. We can take pre-or post consumer textiles, unsold goods, and even offcuts from the clothing production floor. We then use our unique, patent pending technology to create our circular and sustainable material. We process the clothing using our low energy, multi-step technology. We break it down in several specialist stages, before binding it together with natural additives, to give it its strong material properties. The final products are our pellets, which can be used in the same machines that plastics are used, but at lower melting temperatures, hence we save energy also during the usage of our material. Everything is processed in Europe, locally. Our material can be used to produce anything, the possibilities are endless to produce a multitude of products. At the moment we are focusing on products related to the fashion industry, to create a circularity.
aware_: Any exciting projects on the horizon you can tell Aware readers about?
Alina: We are working some exciting B2B projects, to help retailers recycle their waste into innovative products. We hope to be able to share a bit more information soon!
by Eliza Edwards