Sustainable travel extends beyond hotels, tours and transport to what we pack in our suitcases. We now know that certain suncreams are harmful to coral and we’re aware of the impact fast fashion has on the environment. That’s why we were excited to come across Batoko, a stylish and sustainable fashion brand that creates swimwear from collected ocean waste.
British brand Batoko was set up by Melanie Bonsor and her husband Mark in 2013. Creating swimwear from plastic waste the company works to combat the social and ecological injustices created by fast fashion. Their swimwear is made from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic waste, which would have otherwise ended up in landfill or in our oceans. To date, Batoko has recycled the equivalent weight of 220,000 plastic bottles into swimwear.
“PET is one of the most common types of plastic, it’s what drinks bottles and a lot of food containers are made from,” says Melanie. “Despite PET being the most widely recycled type of plastic… the rest ends up either in our environment, landfills, oceans and is sometimes incinerated.”
So Batoko recycles PET waste to create sustainable swimwear where the plastic is sorted, shredded into clean flakes, melted, extruded and then spun into polyester yarn.
Batoko works with an audited factory in China that takes necessary measures to avoid both environmental degradation and follows the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) code of conduct which ensures a fair and safe working environment for all their workers. “We’ve been working with the factory since 2017 and in this time we have noticed positive, unprovoked changes from their end too,” says Melanie. “As of January 2019, the factory eliminated all plastic packaging from their shipments which is a great step and possibly a sign of changes to come within the industry.”
“Rather than producing large collections fast, we consciously keep our collections small and introduce new designs at a more sustainable pace that’s kinder to the planet and the people that make them,” she adds.
All of their prints are created digitally which saves water and energy and produces little waste, while also using non-toxic inks. Everything is packaged and delivered in compostable bags too and Batoko donates a portion of their yearly profits to the Marine Conservation Society.
The bold and colourful prints have been winning rave reviews from stylish, eco-conscious shoppers including BBC presenter Angela Scanlon. Each suit is lined, with a low scoop back and a medium cut leg and, after popular demand, Batoko has re-introduced its kids and baby swimwear designs.
“Although I’m under no illusions that recycling will “save our planet”, I do believe that it’s one of the many solutions we have that will help tackle an issue that is only getting worse,” says Melanie. “Catching waste before it makes it into our oceans and using it to create quality products that are not only useful and reusable, but are also cherished for years, could play an enormous part in the clean-up and reduction of plastic pollution.”
To learn more about Batoko’s story or to shop their designs, see here. All orders are shipped worldwide from their studio in England.