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How UNIREC is reducing carbon emissions one garment at a time

The threat of plastic pollution is ever-growing and our planet is choking. According to the UN environment programme, half of the plastic that is being produced is designed for single use purposes. The issue with single use plastics like bottles, straws, cups, is that they are designed to be discarded after one or two uses. The problem has skyrocketed to the extent that millions of tonnes of plastic waste end up in our oceans and landfills every year becoming a huge environmental and health concern.

Sustainable clothing brand UNIREC is solving this problem in a dual manner. The brand manufactures garments from recycled plastic bottles saving tonnes of plastic waste each year. While promoting circularity by using recycled materials, UNIREC is also reducing the carbon emissions by 30-40%. This Earth Day, IMAGES Business of Fashion’s Kajal Ahuja talks to Kapil Bhatia, Founder & CEO, UNIREC in a freewheeling chat about the growing problem of single use plastics and his brand’s mission of solving it, one garment at a time.

Interview

Q. Tell us about your brand and its core values and mission.

A. At UNIREC, we are making all our garments from recycled plastic bottles. So the brand is called UNIREC; a lot of people keep asking us why the name UNIREC? For everybody to very easily remember, UNIREC stands for ‘U N I RECycle’. We firmly believe that recycling will start with you and me and not with our society or government. And we cannot blame everybody else all the time. Sustainability is our duty and it is not an option for us.

This brand started with the focus that we wanted to make all our garments from recycled pet bottles. On researching, I found out that 90% of pet bottles in India are already recycled. But here’s the catch, the 10% which is not recycled is close to 10,000 bottles a minute! If one made a pile of all this plastic waste, they would get a vertical pile that would easily cross the Statue of Unity in less than 18 days. So one couldn’t do enough to fix this problem because this pile will keep on growing. 

UNIRECAfter more research, I found out about what happens when you make a normal garment versus a recycled garment. I found out that the carbon emissions from manufacturing a t-shirt is close to 10 kilograms. But when the same garment is made from recycled pet, it reduces the carbon emissions by 30-40%. On finding this, we found a whole new purpose to our brand.

So one of our mission statements is to reduce carbon emissions, one person at a time, one garment at a time. We have already saved about six tonnes of plastic and more than 3 lakh bottles, sold close to 30,000 t-shirts, and reduced carbon emissions by 120 tonnes in the process.

Q. Tell us about the portfolio of products that you’re offering.

A. Currently, we are offering t-shirts, pullovers, and jackets for light winter. We also have another category popularly known as Modi Jackets. We are coming up with a product range for trousers and shirts in the next six months. Our women’s collection just launched and our focus for the next three months will be our upcoming kids’ collection.

Q. Tell us about any brand collaborations you’ve had.

A. Recently we collaborated with Archie’s as a strategic collaboration for one year, based on the recent movie and the nostalgic value that Archie Comics carry. The collection is up on our website. In the next 6 months, we are also looking forward to some more collaborations with other stakeholders.

Q. Are there any new innovations in technology that you are coming up with?

A. Many people do not believe what we are doing until they actually touch the fabric we have created from recycled PET. So this is the innovation that we are trying to get around because our core mission is to produce garments that are not just eco-friendly but also comfortable and wearable at the same time.

Q. Tell us about your marketing strategies.

A. Currently, we are present online and in the works of going pan India in 12-15 months. We are also in the process of appointing retail distributors to expand in multi brand outlets across the country. Our goal is to reach out to 500 stores throughout the country and appoint at least 15 distributors.

In terms of other areas of marketing, we do not believe in celebrity endorsements so much, but we believe in real heroes. People like Anand Mahindra, S Somanath (Chairman of ISRO), Harsha Bhogle, who is the voice of Indian cricket, have accepted and worn our t-shirts and jackets. They are the real heroes. So those are our real endorsements.

Q. Tell us about your future plans for UNIREC.

A. We want to go into retail and we have started that process already. We will be present in 500 stores in one year’s time across the country. We will try to explore Asian markets to start off with where we can be present as the first Indian brand to be a completely sustainable brand. To be present globally is our vision. We want to spread the message to the world that India will guide the world to the next level.

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