Have you ever given pause to consider the life of a t-shirt or a pair of jeans? After the old cotton and dirty denim have been worn and torn and patched and thrown, where do they go?
The answer, it turns out, is rather depressing. A dismal majority of clothing ends up either in landfill or the fire pit, destined to rot away for centuries or to choke up the air as smoke and ash (even if you use clothing ‘recycling’ bins).
This is the problem that Kleiderly, the latest team to join the AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator, is trying to fix. With some pretty neat engineering tricks up her sleeve — Alina, Kleiderly’s founder, is giving textile waste a second life:
In your own words, what does the company do?
Imagine this: We can turn your old t-shirt into a new pair of sunglasses. A clothing retailer’s unwanted stock can be turned into phone cases of your iPhone. The opportunities are endless.
At Kleiderly, our mission is to help solve the world’s textile waste crisis. A dreadful 87% of usable textiles are sent to landfill or incinerated (burned), largely due to the fast fashion phenomenon. Most of this consists of man-made fibres and harsh chemical dyes that can exist in landfill sites for 200 years. Sending clothing waste to landfill produces four billion tonnes of CO2e- which is the equivalent of 600 million return flights from Berlin to Australia per year. It is no wonder that the fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluting industry after oil.
Kleiderly uses circular economy principles to capture the value lost from textiles by giving them a new and meaningful life. We are creating new materials that can be used to replace the commonly used oil based plastics, producing a greener alternative. This material can be used within any industry that requires plastics and solves these two climate problems at once.
How did you come across this idea?
The problems regarding plastic waste as well as fast fashion are becoming well known, and people are looking for alternatives. The public is also putting pressure on organizations to become more environmentally friendly. I have seen the rise of the fast fashion phenomenon and the negative impact that it is having, and will continue to have on the environment. I wanted to make a difference and find a solution to ensure that textile waste gets a new life, using circular economy principles.
The circular economy principle is a new way of thinking, to design products to have a second, third, and fourth life. It essentially means that we keep materials or products in use by finding ways to reuse ‘waste’. This is what Kleiderly is doing.
From idea to action: what prompted you to found your own company?
I became a chemical engineer with the intention of making a positive impact on the environment. I worked in the waste to energy sectors as well as the startup scene for six years before deciding to pursue my vision of capturing value from ‘waste’. This led to me founding Kleiderly.
During my career as an engineer, I visited many sites where I saw the vast amounts of household waste that we were creating. I worked close to one of the busiest shopping streets in London and it was always full of shoppers. It was then that I realised how the clothing industry was having a large negative impact on the environment, and I decided that this is the problem I wanted to help solve with my startup. I started Kleiderly with a plan to help reduce the worlds clothing waste crisis.
From action to market: any thoughts you may have on the market for your product?
I believe that there is a lot of room for circular economy products within the current market. We live in a time where the public are much more aware of environmental problems such as global warming, plastic waste and fast fashion. Many consumers are making conscious decisions to lower their carbon footprint and bring about a positive change. There could not be a better time for Kleiderly to make an impact. We are lucky enough to be part of the Berlin startup ecosystem where there are so many opportunities for startups to flourish, particularly because people are so eco friendly and sustainability focused.
What did you do before Kleiderly?
I am originally a chemical engineer with a first class masters degree. I have over six years of experience, from the oil and gas industry as a consultant at ThyssenKrupp, and in the waste to energy field at a London-based startup. I have been involved in the re-design of a coffee waste to biofuel factory as well as designed and installed industrial equipment over £1million in value. I have also been the COO of a coffee waste to reusable cups startup, where I was involved in raising funds, managing operations, and planning strategic growth.
What are your goals for the AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator program?
I am so grateful to AtomLeap for taking Kleiderly on. I applied to AtomLeap when I had the idea of Kleiderly but I didn’t know how I was going to fund myself to start this journey. Pitching to AtomLeap and being accepted into the program gave me the confidence that this idea has the potential to make a global change, and with the right training and workshops provided by the accelerator, this can be possible. I hope the next six months are filled with extreme growth, helping Kleiderly find its way. I could not be more thankful to the team at AtomLeap for believing in our goal and taking this on.
If you are interested in finding out more, or if you know anyone who is keen to help out, get in touch!