Proviz, Repreve and the World's Plastic Pollution Crisis

In Cycling, People / Groups, Tech / Gear

The Statistics

  • 1950 - 2 million tons of plastic were produced.
  • 2015 - 380 million tons of plastic were produced. 
  • Over half of the plastic ever produced was made in the last 13 years.
  • There is currently 8 billion tons of plastic in the world. That is enough to cling-film the entire planet and have 25% left over!
  • 40% of global plastic use is packaging and this has accelerated due to the rise in single-use plastic packaging.
  • What happens to the world’s plastic waste?
    • 9% recycled
    • 12% incinerated
    • 79% landfill 
  • High-income countries such as North America and Britain sell as much as 70% of their plastic waste to low and middle income countries in East Asia and the Pacific, where inadequate disposal and recycling systems mean that much of it ends up in the sea.
  • If we continue to consume plastic at the current rate and do not address the way in which we dispose of it after use, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Plastic Bottle on the Beach

The Outlook

These statistics are shocking and often unhelpful. The problem can seem so huge that it seems futile for individuals and small businesses to make changes to the way they live in order to reduce the amount of plastic waste they generate – even if you work hard to cut it out completely, you are still only one business among millions and one person among billions.

Over the course of researching this article, the most inspiring quote I found came from an interview with Javier Goyeneche that was recently published on the Credit Suisse website. Javier is the founder of sustainable clothing company, Ecoalf, and concludes with the inspiring news that science suggests that if we stop polluting the sea with plastic we should be able to restore 90% of sea life within 5 years. The take-home message is clear:

‘We should remain optimistic while getting to work immediately.’

Waiting for governments and supranational organisations to legislate our way out of the world plastic crisis could mean leaving it too late. The imperative to act now means that individuals and businesses need to be at the forefront of change, altering their working practices and consumer habits in order to reduce plastic waste and raise awareness of the issue.

Rupert and Anthony Langly-Smith

From the beginning, Proviz founders Ant and Rupert have worked hard to ensure that Proviz products and services align with their personal values. Having been brought up by the sea, the brothers are keen to do all they can to protect the environment and to make their manufacturing process as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.  

From June 2019, Proviz will be working with a fabric manufacturer called Repreve®, who make polyester out of recycled plastic bottles at one of the most advanced recycling centres in the USA. The Repreve® recycled polyester will be use for the linings of Proviz jackets, which will help to keep thousands of plastic bottles out of landfill.

I had a chat with Rupert to find out more about their decision to start using Repreve®…

Rupert Langly-Smith

What made you decided to start using Repreve® for the lining of Proviz jackets?

Having been brought up on the island of Jersey, the natural environment is very important to Ant and me. When walking on a beach or around the coast I can’t help but notice litter that is washed up on the shore that has potentially come from thousands of miles of away. You sometimes see bottles from different continents, which shows the problem the world has with regards to plastic bottles and single use plastics. We decided we wanted to try and do something about this and after a lot of research found out that parts of our jackets could be made using fabric manufactured using recycled plastic bottles!

Why did you choose Repreve® over other brands using similar manufacturing processes?

Having done a huge amount of research I spoke to the team at Repreve® and was super happy to know that the yarn that they produce could be made in to a mesh that we could use to replace the mesh we have been using up to this point. Repreve® also work with well-known brands such as Patagonia, Nike, North Face and Quicksilver.

Repreve Infographic

Which products will benefit from this new lining? 

The lining for the Reflect360 jackets uses 9 plastic bottles per jacket and the lining for the Nightrider jackets uses 7 plastic bottles per jacket.

Will the new lining made using recycled plastic be as breathable and lightweight as the old lining?

Yes – the inside mesh of the cycling jackets has an almost identical feeling and density to our existing material, so customers won’t know the difference, but they will know that they are helping to recycle plastic bottles!

Why is the issue of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans important to Proviz as a brand? 

Given that we spend so much of our time at work, we should not separate our working ethics from our personal ethics. This is even more pertinent when you co-own the company that you work at! Ant and I want Proviz to reflect our own attitudes to the environment and sustainability and doing what we can to reduce plastic pollution is part of this.

Is Proviz planning any other changes in manufacture or distribution to make it more eco-friendly?

Newlife Children's Charity Logo

We’re always looking into eco-friendly ideas. We have recently started working with Newlife, a charity that supports disabled and terminally ill children.  Our partnership with Newlife supports our environmental commitment and enables us to recycle returned, end of line and sample stock. These items are de-branded (to prevent fraudulent returns to shops) and sold direct to the public through Newlife’s popular fashion and home retail stores.  Sales from these stores raise much needed money to help provide essential equipment for disabled children. Newlife has been recycling returned, sample and un-sold textile stock for over 25 years, building its reputation as a leader in the field of recovery and recycling.

As a retailer of sports clothing we are acutely aware of the negative impact that the clothing industry as a whole has on the planet and we are keen to distance ourselves from the ‘fast fashion’ ethos of buy-wear-discard. We are dedicated to making good quality products that people can use for years and then return to us to be recycled.  If a customer returns a worn out Proviz product to us via our trade-in scheme, we offer them a 20% discount on a replacement. The old garments are then recycled. For example, a jacket may be recycled as secondary raw materials for the building, motor or textile industry.

What do you think are the three most important things consumers can do to help the planet with their buying decisions? 

Of course everyone is different and everyone is entitled to their own opinions, so I can only really go on what I look for when buying something myself.

When looking to purchase a product, I believe it is important to look into whether or not a brand is trying to reduce its carbon footprint, help the environment or support charities. The world is drowning in single use plastic waste and everyone can do his or her bit to help. Whether it’s not using that plastic straw in a café or purchasing a product that has been recycled over one that hasn’t. It all helps and I believe we all have a responsibility to do our bit, which is why we have implemented these changes to our business.

Boy in a sea of rubbish

There is no Planet B… 

By changing the lining material of their jackets, Proviz is not going to solve the plastic pollution crisis. However, if every business made a few changes to its working practices to made it more eco-friendly and if every shopper occasionally put down a ‘throw-away’ version of a product in favour of one that has been made sustainably, then we can start to turn the tide on plastic pollution. Our buying power as consumers and business owners will ultimately influence policy makers at a national and international level. 

Earlier in the year, parts of central London ground to a halt in the face of climate change protestors involved in the Extinction Rebellion. These were mostly young people who had skipped school to make a public stand, letting politicians know that their concern for the environment cannot easily be ignored or swept aside.

That many young people are clearly engaged with the plight of the planet is the most positive outcome of the depressing process of researching global plastic pollution. Asking ‘what kind of planet do you want to leave for your children?’ is often used to try and motivate us to be more pro-active about reducing, reusing and recycling. Javier Goyeneche turns this on its head and asks ‘what children do we want to leave our planet?’ Based on the evidence of recent months we will be leaving it in safe hands, we just need to make sure we don’t push it past the point of no return in the meantime. 

The company's sustainability mission is part of the Proviz Purpose Project and you can read more about it here.

Proviz Purpose Project