Standardise recycling policies and regulations for better practices, says Kloth Kloth Lifestyle, a Malaysia-based sustainable apparel company that currently makes, markets, and develops fabrics from recycled products, aspires to supply such products in local bundle shops as well as to export them to developing countries.
The company formed in 2013 between four women partners who were once university mates.
Together with business growth, they want to promote a green lifestyle and educate people to be more environmentally-conscious.
One of Klothâs Co-Founders and Director Nik Suzila Nik Hassan said, the company tirelessly finds ways to bring down the price of raw materials so that it will be able to produce for the mass market and not be confined to the corporate market.
Kloth produces its products from recycled plastic bottles and other recycled materials.
In a local English daily recently, Nik Suzila also mentioned that Kloth wants to build its own supply chain to ensure sufficient feedstock for its raw materials.
That way, the company will be able to secure its own feedstock, which will enable them to control production costs when production volume is higher.
GreenTech Malaysia Alliances, a subsidiary of the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (MGTC), owns 20% of Kloth.
Other shareholders include Dutch fashion designer Monique Maissan – also the Founder of Vision Textiles – who holds another 20%, while Nik Suzila and the three other partners own the remaining stakes in the company.
Currently, the company has a collaboration agreement with Shanghai-based Vision Textiles, using the latterâs Waste2Wear clothing technologies.
It also has an agreement with Maissan to design, manufacture, and market clothing lines using polyester yarns that are produced from recycled plastic bottles.
Nik Suzila says the partners are also looking at expanding its fabric product lines to include pillows and other bedding items made with recycled yarns.
Kloth would also have the option of blending unwanted textile scraps with other materials to produce engineered fuel for cement kilns.
Another Co-Founder who now heads operations and administration matters for Kloth, Nurul Izani Zulkifli, pointed out the challenges in sourcing for the right feedstock.
Not all plastics can be recycled into yarn.
The most common type of plastic is used to make plastic bottles and plastic bags.
She added that it is a tough task to bring down the prices of raw materials and increase awareness on the value of a sustainable lifestyle.
For that purpose, Kloth needs to invest in more marketing sales to promote a sustainable lifestyle.
Nurul Izani affirmed that this can be done through promoting fashion products made from plastic bottles such as scarves, hijabs, and foldable microfiber towels.
Nik Suzila emphasised that the business has good potential growth if consumers become more environmentally-conscious and demand the same of corporate companies, while acknowledging that challenges to promote a green lifestyle in Malaysia remain for Kloth.
Additionally, the process of turning plastic bottles into fabric and ultimately wearable fashion is tedious as it involves the breaking down of bales of plastics, cleaning and separation of materials into different plastic resins, and manufacturing them into pellets that are ready to be shaped into new products.
Such a labour-intensive process drives up the cost of raw materials and compresses the margins.
Subsequently, this discourages investments in downstream activities based on recycled fabrics.
Next to that, Nik Suzila said that Malaysian households are far from making waste separation a habitual exercise, and Malaysians still view waste as just waste.
âThere is still a large portion of recyclable waste that is disposed in landfills and not deviated to recycling,â she continued, adding that Malaysia is very much behind in its recycling efforts compared to many other developed countries.
Change must be driven by policymakers with the will to make it happen.
The Brussels-based Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) found that the world produces more than eight billion tonnes of plastic annually.
Only 9% of that is recycled, while just under 80% is treated as waste where they are sent to landfill sites or dumped in the oceans.
Policies and regulations that are not uniform or up-to-date concerning recycling form the biggest obstacle to a sustainable business, Nik Suzila explained.
Neither do ours promote the concept of a circular economy.
A circular economy is based on the concept of the 3Rs, popularly known as âreduce, reuse, and recycle,â and she observed that there has been no concerted effort by Malaysiaâs policymakers to ensure sustainable recycling practices.
Also in Malaysia, it is a common sight to see foreign workers collecting recyclable items for collection centres, for a small income.
âThis still does not persuade the public to separate their waste and sell the recyclables,â Nik Suzila noted.
While the road to a sustainable lifestyle is paved with challenges, Kloth is determined to put its brand and business model at the centre of its efforts toward a circular economy.
By Neera Khandpuri.