Ecuadorian brands transform plastic bottles into glasses and clothes

With a bottle weighing about 40 grams you get a pair of glasses. Photo: Courtesy / Tukuna

Ecuadorian brands transform plastic bottles into glasses and clothes

Ana Cristina Alvarado
January 27, 2021 00:00

According to Green Peace, 500 billion plastic bottles are produced globally each year. In Spain, 50% of packaging ends up in landfills. Meanwhile, in Ecuador, bottles represent 95% of the plastic waste that reaches the Galapagos .

While the production and use of plastic should be reduced, handling it after disposal is also important. One of the proposals is to transform plastic into new materials and products, to extend its life time. In Ecuador, at least two brands are betting on managing plastic bottles better: Tukuna and Revive .

Tukuna is based on engineering to create by recycling; Tukuna means ‘back’ in Kichwa. The eyewear brand was created by engineers Mariuxy Jaramillo , Philip Wright and Adrián Buenaño, and was launched on the market at the end of 2020.

“The idea was born three years ago when we started a project to improve the situation of waste pickers in Quito,” Wright says. The team noted that the payment received by environmental managers is very low. Furthermore, many of the products they collect are not ultimately recycled . So, they decided to create filament for 3D printers from PET-type plastic bottles. Later, they created products that are more commercial, such as flower pots, toys and earrings .

Finally, they focused their production on glasses, “a product that we all like,” according to Jaramillo. The process began with the manufacture of the machines for the production: plastic crusher, plastic extruder, cooling process, filament winding and 3D printer. They did it with pieces that they found in the botadores of Quito .

The next step was to partner with ReciVeci, an ‘app’ that helps to connect with environmental managers. The recyclers sort the bottles by color and also remove the bottle cap, label, spout, and base, as these are not used as raw material. Tukuna pays higher prices for the bottles relative to market prices, in order to recognize the work of recyclers.

With this raw material, a thread is created that goes into the 3D printer and which replicates the design created on the computer. With a bottle weighing approximately 40 grams, you get a pair of glasses. Some 5,000 bottles have already been recycled by Tukuna. The colors of the glasses are achieved from the mixture of colored bottles with transparent bottles.

For example, to obtain coffee, 20% of Pony Malta bottles are mixed with 80% of transparent plastic. Lens with or without prescription are provided by an optician in Quito. They all have UV protection and are polarized. The cases are made from recycled textiles by the Remu and Allpamama brands. Tukuna is now working on the design of three new models.

Meanwhile, the creators are open to share their knowledge at different events. This week they will participate in the Circular Ecosystem meeting.

Revive is committed to raising consumer awareness. Revive is a clothing brand made with textiles created from recycled plastic bottles. The designer Melissa Santa María is behind this bet.

“As a designer it causes conflict for me to use polyester fabrics, which is used almost everywhere and massively. In my personal life, I recycle everything; in the workshop we use every last thread. This new brand responds to a personal issue about where I want to take my project,” she reflects.

The initiative was born at the end of 2019 with the search for suppliers, since this type of textiles is not sold in Ecuador. “When I got the supplier, the quarantine took over. The company I was working with left the country,” she says.

Almost a year later, in September 2020, Santa María found another supplier and started again with the process of importing the fabrics from Colombia . At the end of 2020 the fabric arrived and the prototyping process began. Contrary to popular belief, fabrics can be as soft and light as a chiffon or heavy as a trench coat.

The wait also had an added benefit. The filling for the sweaters has a technology to warm the body when the temperature drops. Santa María has created sweaters, t-shirts, kimonos, among others. The objective is to launch a collection of garments that are durable, easy to combine and that will not soon go out of style, to extend their useful life and thus reduce textile waste in landfills.

“These fabrics are a little more expensive than common fabric, but I think it is a value that the consumer has to learn to appreciate,” he says. The designer will launch Revive next month. It is currently in the manufacturing process and working on the marketing strategy.

This content has been originally published by Diario EL COMERCIO at the following address:

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2021

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