Upcycled Medical is pioneering the recycled textile industry. The company, launched by Linda Ball in 2017, started with the desire to make an environmentally friendly cap in the sports market. To meet the expectations and the requirements of the sports sector they were able to successfully develop a cap with 65% upcycled plastic and 35% organic cotton. After their initial success, they wondered if it would be possible to create a 100% upcycled textile, made from part marine and part landfill plastic, which would put a huge dent in the growing pollution problem.
The company now creates medical clothing made from post-consumer PET plastic waste (a form of polyester most commonly seen in the plastic bottles used for beverages and liquid products) collected from our oceans and landfills. Their products have a fully traceable wastestream from Europe to the UK, and are drastically reducing CO2 emissions, energy and water usage in the production of medical workwear. Upcycle Medical’s production process proves the viability of sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives that can work world wide.
Upcycled Medical endeavour to leave no stone unturned in their mission to do their best for the planet; instead of using crude oil to make new plastic, they turn existing waste plastic into upcycled clothing. By saving different kinds of waste plastics from the ocean and landfill to create a variety of functional products, Upcycle Medical is working towards a future where no new plastics will need to be created. Scaling their innovation to manufacture at scale will positively impact the serious issue of the climate crisis.
To achieve their goals, they reached out to other partners making a difference and thus began their association with SeaQual Initiative to implement their full traceability process of upcycled products. Through an agreement, endorsed by the Spanish Government, fishermen are incentivised to trawl the ocean to collect plastic waste, by casting their nets a mile and a half wide after their fishing day has ended. The plastic is then sorted, pelletised and upcycled into yarn for weaving into textile. The upcycled textile is then sent to Upcycled Medical in the United Kingdom for manufacture into products.
Globally, oceans are choking with dumped waste and unused plastic, rapidly destroying marine life. The physical suffocation that they cause, their constant leaching of chemicals and colouring agents, and their breakdown into micro-plastics is causing devastating effects on reefs, water temperatures and life cycles of aquatic animals. Upcycled Medical wants to do things differently. According to research, should Upcycle Medical’s textile manufacturing process using post-consumer waste plastic be adopted worldwide, then there would be no need to manufacture new plastic for the next 40 years. This would be an exponential benefit to climate change.
Upcycled Medical also has the lowest verifiable carbon footprint in the world, since they exclusively make their products from post-consumer waste, endorsed and certified by SeaQual. The benefits of Upcycled Medical plastic are endless, not only recovering plastic from the ocean and landfill, but the textile itself can be washed at 90 degrees over 100 times before needing to go back into the recycling process. It is waterproof, showerproof and will provide protection from liquid spillage. The textile saves 34% in water usage, 39% in energy and between 36% to 77% in CO2 emissions through their production process, depending on textile production sites and composition.
Looking to the future, partnering with organisations such as the NHS and BUPA, Upcycled Medical have gone a step further and intend to physically collect waste from both parties to be recycled into sustainable clothing, such as medical scrubs.
Standard existing NHS scrubs are manufactured from PET pellets sourced from Saudi Arabia, shipped to China, manufactured using coal fired power stations, then shipped once again back to the UK, which is extremely CO2 wasteful and harmful. Upcycled Medical currently produces its products more regionally in France and Spain with a high ratio of renewable energy and shortly will do so in the UK.
The production of 1,000 scrubs per day, a year for one hospital would recycle 11,000,000 standard PET bottles of 203,000kg of general PET waste. This would make the recycled garments the most ecological the industry can offer today.
Current modes of recycling plastic are all well and good, but it is not being executed at the scale it needs to have the biggest positive impact. Upcycle Medical have innovated a manufacturing process that closes the loop on the need to produce new plastics. Instead, their zero-waste alternative champions a circular economy that benefits the textile industry, reduces pollution and protects the planet.
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