Ecoalf sees opportunity in waste. Based in Madrid, the urban-minimalist apparel brand—think Uniqlo for the conscious set—has recycled everything from decommissioned fishing nets, post-consumer plastic bottles, worn-out tires, cotton waste, and even discarded coffee grounds into city-slicking jackets, shoes, and bags. Turns out, that was only the beginning. Since September, a fleet of 160 fishing vessels have been trawling the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast of Levante in Spain. Their strange catch? Plastic waste, which Ecoalf plans to recycle into pellets, thread, fabrics, and eventually clothing. Together with its waste-reclamation partners, Ecoalf says it hopes to create high-quality filaments that boast up to 100 percent recycled content. “Ecoalf is all about not using natural resources,” Javier Goyeneche, the company’s founder and CEO, told Ecouterre.

UPCYCLING THE OCEANS

Ecoalf won’t be wanting for materials. The world’s oceans are brimming with 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing some 269,000 tons in all.

Although Ecoalf says it’s on track to present the world’s first fashion collection derived from seabed plastic in June, the process isn’t without its challenges.

“The plastics come out very damaged due to the sea, salt, and exposure to sun,” Goyeneche said.

Still, this is one instance where Ecoalf expects its investment in research and development to pay off. The company maintains 11 active alliances worldwide, from Portugal to Japan, to develop the necessary breakthroughs it needs to turn trash into feedstock.

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“The technology to transform that waste into quality thread is very unique,” Goyeneche added.

While recycled ocean waste appears to be the new recycled plastic bottle, Ecoalf’s move is unique in at least one regard.

Similar endeavors, such as Raw for the Oceans’ line of denim and Adidas x Parley for the Oceans’ concept sneaker, comprise mostly shoreline plastic and reclaimed fishing nets. Ecoalf’s efforts, in contrast, actively remove litter from the sea.

Plus, unlike some of its competition, Ecoalf isn’t content to coast by on a minor percentage of recycled constituents.

“Most [recycled] fabrics only contain a very small percentage of [post-consumer] material—15 to 20 percent,” Goyeneche said. “The goal is to once again achieve 100 percent recycled.”

+ Upcycling the Oceans

+ Ecoalf