A few seasons ago in the menswear business, we started hearing of something called the Seaqual Initiative. At first I thought, like many things, it was something dreamed up by a marketing executive to increase sales. Turns out I was wrong (no surprise there).
The Seaqual Initiative name kept surfacing on brands that we source from Europe, mainly Paul & Shark, Brax and Robert Graham, but others as well. It was enough that my curiosity was piqued and I went down the rabbit hole.
Interestingly enough, it turns out the Seaqual Initiative is a Spanish organization, and is a collaboration of individuals and corporations who share a vision to reduce plastic waste in our oceans. In fact not only to reduce, but to create the incentive to harvest plastic waste by monetizing it. Brilliant.
This is where it gets interesting: The Seaqual Initiative coordinates and partners with the waste management industries to recycle and repurpose plastic waste into very high-quality polyester filaments and spin it into yarn, which is sold to fabric houses that blend and weave the yarn into fabric that clothing manufacturers purchase for their designs. Also brilliant.
Nothing creates energy like the ability to make money from nothing, particularly for those people living in Third World countries where plastic waste is abundant. The environmental benefit is simply a welcome bonus.
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about the cheap double knit polyester that soured the North American appetite for manmade fibres. The European market grasped the benefits of blending manmade filaments with natural fibres, far in advance of the North American market, and really never stopped delivering higher-quality yarns. The benefits of blended fabrics are that they are more colour fast, more durable, pill less, maintain their shape better and are generally much easier to care for … and using recycled filaments has the additional benefit of reducing our reliance on petro chemicals.
Please consider, if you will, the economic potential contained in the 80,000 tonnes of mainly plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, floating off the coast of California, and a similar though smaller garbage island in the Atlantic Ocean’s Sargasso Sea. That these floating islands have been allowed to exist says so much about us … and should be a definitive call to action for people, governments and corporations to help organizations like the Seaqual Initiative. I know I will.