Circular Cycling: Why ashmei is using old plastic to create new jerseys

From post-consumer waste to performance clothing, our latest ranges give fresh life to throwaway plastic

It's easy to feel good in what you wear when you know your clothing comes at a minimal cost to the environment. One of ashmei's founding principles is sustainability. It's something we pursue at every turn; from how our clothes are developed to the packaging in which they're delivered to our customers. Another way we look to achieve this goal is through creating stable supply chains and collaborating with other manufacturers that share our goals.

Colceresa is a comune in the Veneto region of Italy. An area long involved in fabric technology, today it's where we source our recycled polyester fabric. Independently verified as adhering to The Global Recycle Standard for reclaimed fibres, all of the material we buy from our fabric mill in Colceresa is composed of post-consumer PET bottles. It's one obvious manifestation of ashmei's commitment to reducing the impact of our clothing.

Made new

Helping us avoid extracting virgin resources, the yarn used in our latest jerseys instead comes from discarded plastic bottles. Sorted, cleaned, and stripped of any packaging, these bottles are shredded before being reformed into rPET chips. Able to perform the same functions as material derived directly from crude oil, one use of this stream of post-consumer plastic is the creation of polyester yarn.

It's this product our friends in Italy have utilised to create the material for ashmei's latest jerseys. With a kilo of bottles producing around three meters of fabric, each jersey equates to 12 or so bottles. With no loss in performance versus non-recycled materials, using reclaimed materials is allows us to hold to our twin goals of sustainability and performance.

Reduce and renew

But why is any of this important? Despite growing awareness of its environmental impact, each year, an increasing amount of fresh plastic is produced from fossil fuels. In 2019 this totalled 368 million tonnes worldwide. Since the 1950s, a total of more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been created, with only 9% recycled. By 2050 the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world's total oil consumption. Despite our small size, at ashmei, we're trying to reduce this deluge of fresh plastic wherever we can.

Currently, almost half of all plastic waste around the world comes from packaging materials. While we've long sent our items out in easily recycled paper and card packaging, we've also made efforts to reduce unseen single-plastic use further up our supply chains. This has been achieved with the help of our suppliers. Sharing our aim of reducing the impact of their operations, switching to biodegradable bags when transporting garments between manufacturing and distribution centres is just one way they’ve also cut down their reliance on single-use plastics.

Industry and responsibility

The next biggest offender after packaging, the textile industry is collectively responsible for a further 14% of all plastic waste. Partly due to the disposable nature of much fast fashion, it's something ashmei has always tried to avoid contributing to through our use of sustainable materials like Merino wool.

However, with so much plastic already produced, when we do need to use plastic, almost all our future needs could be met by recycling already existing material. It's why we've taken extensive steps to both reduce the use of virgin plastics while also incorporating recycled plastic waste into our products whenever we can.

Employed across our close-fitting summerweight jerseys, our recent experiments with recycled polyester fabric has allowed us to expand upon our range of ethically sourced Merino wool-based products. Creating a complementary line offering different qualities like easier care and a more race-orientated fit, each jersey is designed to provide durable performance. Plus, where possible, we also offer a bespoke repair service to keep all our products in circulation for as long as is practical.

Reduced impact

So why isn't everyone switching to recycled materials? Requiring 59% less energy compared to virgin polyester, the cost of choosing recycled fabrics is nevertheless currently slightly higher than using freshly extracted resources. Yet, it's the race to the bottom when it comes to pricing that's partly responsible for the clothing industry's poor record on recycling.

It's why we believe a slight increase in cost is easily offset by knowing the clothing we produce for our athletes is working hard to protect the environment. In future, as recycled plastics become the norm, this premium will disappear altogether. And the faster consumers demand it, the more widespread and accessible recycled alternatives will become.

In the meantime, we'll continue to champion the use of recycled materials. One way we can do this is to produce products that continue to fulfil the exacting demands of our athletes. With no loss of performance in switching to recycled materials, products like our latest Evo jerseys showcase the benefits of switching away from virgin materials.

Right now we’re increasing the use of recycled fibres across our products. Currently designing them into more items, we're also looking for ways in which to ensure our clothing itself can, in turn, be recycled.

Working towards offering either biodegradable natural fibre products or recycled synthetic options that can be reused come the end of their lifespan, both are helping a sustainable future arrive a little quicker.