EasyJet’s New Uniforms Are Made Of… Plastic Bottles?!

EasyJet’s New Uniforms Are Made Of… Plastic Bottles?!

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EasyJet is rolling out new uniforms, but passengers may not even notice…

EasyJet’s unique new plastic uniforms

EasyJet is introducing new uniforms for cabin crew and pilots, each of which will each be made of roughly 45 recycled plastic bottles. Over the course of the five year uniform contract, it’s expected that this will prevent 2.7 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfills or in oceans, so that’s over 500K bottles per year.

The new uniforms will be manufactured by Northern-Ireland based Tailored Image, and should be introduced into circulation for cabin crew this month. Aside from plastic bottles, it’s stated that the rest of the uniform will be made of a high-tech material using renewable energy sources, which will have a 75% lower carbon footprint than traditional polyester (I’m not entirely clear on what that is, though).

One major concern with new airline uniforms is how comfortable they are, given how much airline employees have to move around. It’s stated that the new fabric was first trialed last year for suitability. Compared to the non-recyclable alternative, it is more abrasion-resistant, and provides more elasticity, a four-way stretch, and improved fit and freedom of movement for enhanced comfort and durability.

While the uniform will be largely made of reused plastic bottles, plastic has been replaced in all clothing-related packaging, in favor of recyclable and biodegradable materials. For example, plastic collar strays have been replaced by recyclable cardboard ones, and plastic shirt clips have been replaced with metal shirt clips.

EasyJet has launched a fair number of environmental initiatives, and in 2019 the airline claimed to be the first major carbon neutral airline in the world (though the facts around that are always a bit fuzzy).

What EasyJet executives are saying

EasyJet’s Director of Cabin Services, Tina Milton, had the following to say about the new uniforms:

“Climate change is an issue for all of us, and at easyJet, we are looking at all parts of our operation to see where we can reduce carbon emissions and reduce waste. We are excited to be debuting this new pilot and cabin crew uniform made from recycled plastic bottles and to introduce it for our pilots and cabin crew colleagues. We know that sustainability is an important issue for them and also for our customers.

It is a priority for us to continue work on reducing our carbon footprint in the short term, coupled with long-term work to support the development of new technology, including zero-emission planes which aspire to reduce the carbon footprint of aviation radically. We continue to work with innovative technology partners Wright Electric and Airbus. Each of them has set out its ambitious timetables for bringing zero-emission aircraft into commercial service to become a reality.

People have a choice in how they travel, and if people choose to fly with us, we want to be one of the best choices they can make.”

Bottom line

We see airlines introduce new uniforms all the time, though typically the innovation centers around the look, rather than the material. Assuming these uniforms are as comfortable as EasyJet is promising, kudos to the airline for this new concept. What a great way to reuse plastic bottles.

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  1. Emily

    @Lucky

    Most clothing today is made from PET fibers. PET is the acronym for polyester, which is a plastic. A lot of recycled PET comes from bottle grades, since they are cleaner and typically clear. Fibers extruded from PET are then woven with other fabrics (60/40 Cotton/Polyester for instance) for strength and durability. All sports wear are made from PET. Great marketing for something that is altogether common.

  2. Serge T

    Hi Ben,

    This isn’t new or even something novel. Recycled polyester has been around now for a long time and most companies now manufacture with it. I am on the textile industry and in all the Jean fabric we produce we do not use virgin polyester anymore. Companies like Target for example have been using recycle Poly on their clothing for a while Now. Sounds exciting but it really isn’t. Also there is no price difference for what they are doing.

    1. Eskimo

      @Serge T

      Since you are the closet to an 'insider', does these process/equipment cost more to produce the same piece of garment?
      In other words, is it cheaper for Nike to manufacture recycled bottle shirts?
      If yes, WTF are all these company charging more for these environmental friendly shirts?

      I am willing to play my part in recycling stuff, but if they are going to scam me for this, I'd rather go the cheaper disposable straight to landfill route.

    2. Kent

      There actually isn't much of a price difference because additives, toners and other colorants are often required to create PET fiber of similar quality from recycled content to PET fibers made of virgin PET. In addition, washing, sorting and other processes in the recycling chain add expenses. Mostly though, the reliable and consistent supply of recycled plastics (aka PCR) is actually very small, and often demanding a premium depending on use. Most companies are switching...

      There actually isn't much of a price difference because additives, toners and other colorants are often required to create PET fiber of similar quality from recycled content to PET fibers made of virgin PET. In addition, washing, sorting and other processes in the recycling chain add expenses. Mostly though, the reliable and consistent supply of recycled plastics (aka PCR) is actually very small, and often demanding a premium depending on use. Most companies are switching to rPET and other recycled plastics for their sustainability initiatives rather than cost savings.

      However, as the source for recycled materials become more widely available, we should expect costs to decrease, although not that much lower than the virgin material.

      Anyways, the cost of plastic is not the most significant contribution to the clothing industry.

    3. Eskimo

      LOL @Kent

      Thanks for the answer which sounded like a company spokesperson. Good one, you actually deflected my question with a confusing answer. At first it sounds a little cheaper, then you throw in unreliably supply and now costs a premium.

      So is cost of (additives, toners and other colorants)+(washing, sorting and other processes)+(recycled content) cost of (PET fibers made of virgin PET)

      And yes, I'm not saying cost of plastic is the most significant...

      LOL @Kent

      Thanks for the answer which sounded like a company spokesperson. Good one, you actually deflected my question with a confusing answer. At first it sounds a little cheaper, then you throw in unreliably supply and now costs a premium.

      So is cost of (additives, toners and other colorants)+(washing, sorting and other processes)+(recycled content) cost of (PET fibers made of virgin PET)

      And yes, I'm not saying cost of plastic is the most significant contribution. (Is it political lobbying to approve child labor?)
      I'm asking does it cost a shirt manufacturer more or less to make a shirt with recycled materials.
      Because Nike is charging me more for an almost identical jersey but made from a lot more recycled materials.
      I am happy to pay more if it costs Nike more. But I will be pssd if Nike is ripping customers with environmental excuses. Or I'm paying more to marketing not sustainability.

    4. Kent

      @Eskimo

      Your question does not have a simple answer. I don't think there was anything confusing about my answer. If you are looking for simple answers, may I suggest you consult the Magic 8 Ball.

      However, to appease you: It costs Nike more, today, to make clothes from recycled plastics.

      To answer your next question: No, they don't care if you want to buy the cheaper alternative made from virgin PET.

    5. DCharlie

      On the topic of plastics - I own a company which is a major manufacturer of polyolefins and styrenics. Not long ago we figured out that the off spec material - aka scrap - that none of our customers would accept was perfectly acceptable for some of the major aircraft interior manufacturers. The best part is that we could charge 15x-20x for material that was worthless. For that reason solely I love the airline industry....

      On the topic of plastics - I own a company which is a major manufacturer of polyolefins and styrenics. Not long ago we figured out that the off spec material - aka scrap - that none of our customers would accept was perfectly acceptable for some of the major aircraft interior manufacturers. The best part is that we could charge 15x-20x for material that was worthless. For that reason solely I love the airline industry. I don’t care if airlines go bust as long as they keep building more planes. We even generate this scrap on demand now just so we can sell it to them with 80-90% margins! No wonder the interiors of aircraft look like shit

  3. Ryan

    Chick-fil-A does the same thing with their restaurant team member uniforms. There’s even a little patch on one of the arms that mentions how many plastic bottles were used to make each polo. As a former team member and manager, I can attest that they are indeed comfortable and flexible!

    1. Eskimo

      As a current Chick-fil-A customer, I don't really care how many plastic bottles were used to make each polo.
      As long as the sandwich are crazy amazing, I'm still going to overpay for your sandwiches and hate you every time I want to eat chicken and realize it's Sunday.

  4. MurrayF

    two questions
    1. how will they react in a fire - melt?. Wool or cotton are much better fibres and they are natural
    2. given my artificial fibre clothes smell bad after one day how will these smell after a long day in the air. Wool or cotton win again

    seems like yet another case of a publicity department applying spin over substance.

    1. Steve

      You bring up a great point, these artificial clothes smell terrible and normal wash isnt good enough to get into these micro fibers. I have to steam wash and use extra hot water to clean my athletic-ware that is made from these recycled plastics. The amount of extra energy needed to wash these types of clothes every single week is far more than anything gained by recycling a couple of plastic bottles.

  5. Never In Doubt

    At least they’re not short sleeved shirts with vests like that Icelandic airline.

  6. pstm91

    Nothing new here... companies such as Patagonia have been making clothing out of recycled items for years (decades?). While I always take these announcements with a grain of salt, good for Easy Jet as it is the first corporate mandated announcement I'm aware of.

  7. Dr. McFrugal

    Kudos to EasyJet. More companies should find innovative ways like this to combat the effects of climate change!

  8. DenB

    Plastic clothes on people doing sweaty work. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. khatl

      Exactly my reaction!
      Though likely they were already wearing plastic (polyester) anyway

Featured Comments Load all 16 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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Steve

You bring up a great point, these artificial clothes smell terrible and normal wash isnt good enough to get into these micro fibers. I have to steam wash and use extra hot water to clean my athletic-ware that is made from these recycled plastics. The amount of extra energy needed to wash these types of clothes every single week is far more than anything gained by recycling a couple of plastic bottles.

MurrayF

two questions 1. how will they react in a fire - melt?. Wool or cotton are much better fibres and they are natural 2. given my artificial fibre clothes smell bad after one day how will these smell after a long day in the air. Wool or cotton win again seems like yet another case of a publicity department applying spin over substance.

DCharlie

On the topic of plastics - I own a company which is a major manufacturer of polyolefins and styrenics. Not long ago we figured out that the off spec material - aka scrap - that none of our customers would accept was perfectly acceptable for some of the major aircraft interior manufacturers. The best part is that we could charge 15x-20x for material that was worthless. For that reason solely I love the airline industry. I don’t care if airlines go bust as long as they keep building more planes. We even generate this scrap on demand now just so we can sell it to them with 80-90% margins! No wonder the interiors of aircraft look like shit

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