Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know there’s a horrifying amount of plastic waste floating in the world’s oceans: around eight million metric tonnes of the stuff.
And if things continue as they are, it’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more of it than fish in the sea.
Our single-use plastic addiction is declining thanks to plastic bag taxes and the rise of reusable coffee cups and water bottles, but it’s still a massive problem. And while recycling doesn’t solve everything, it’s certainly going to help – especially if plastic is fished out of the sea to be reused.
Jumping on this bandwagon are many clothing brands who are tapping into our new-found consciousness for the environment.
Don’t be too cynical – many of these companies are surf brands who see the problem firsthand on our beaches, coastlines and in our oceans, and want to fight back to save the ecosystem they love.
The most common type of recycled plastic is PET bottles. To be reused, the bottles are sorted, cleaned and stripped of labels and caps, melted down into little pellets and then spun into yarn to make garments.
From swimwear to snowwear and leggings to backpacks, here’s our tried and tested roundup of the companies who are making something useful out of all of our plastic waste, and saving it from landfill.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers , but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Batoko cockatoo swimsuit: £50, Batoko
Having already recycled the equivalent weight of 220,000 plastic bottles, Batoko uses collected ocean waste to make its gorgeous swimsuits, which come in just 10 bold designs in a bid to also combat the perils of fast fashion. All of the British brand’s incredible prints use non-toxic inks and are created digitally, which saves water and energy and produces little waste. Of course, everything is packaged and delivered in compostable bags too, giving them extra brownie points. Our favourite is the cockatoo print that’s just made for holidays on tropical beaches. Each suit is lined, with a low scoop back and a medium cut leg.
Labo mono waterproof unisex urban carnival print jacket: £149, Labo Mono
This brand has gone further than just making something out of recycled plastic, it’s also thought about prolonging it’s life with free repair kits which are made up of material trimmings, and has an end of life returns system when an item is beyond repair and is upcycled, and customers then get a discount towards another jacket. The brand is also Peta approved and made in factories where people are paid a fair wage. Each jacket is made from around 30 recycled plastic bottles, and both the inner and outer layers of this jacket are totally recycled.
As well as having a 10,000 HH waterproof rating (which is capable of protecting in rain and light snow), it has an eco-friendly water-repellent covering that’s not nasty for the environment like a lot are. Aside from it's eco credentials, it's also a pretty technical jacket too with pit zips for ventilation, fully taped seams, concealed sleeve pockets on both wrists for keys/ cards etc, a helmet compatible helmet for all the cyclists and rock climbers, nifty internal chest pockets and it can be packed into itself, so it takes up little room in your bag when it’s not needed.
We really like that it has everything you need in a serious jacket, but still has a sense of humour and style and doesn't look out of place wearing it in the city either. And because its made from recycled fibres that are tiny, it’s super soft and feels more like a fine brushed cotton.
As well as this cool black pattern, there’s two other white patterned jackets, as well as plan, blue, orange or green to choose from. Sizes from XXS-XXL. We were recommended to size down for women, and the brand emphasises to check the hip measurement before buying too.
Kind Bag London reusable shopping bag: £10, Kind Bag
Made from six plastic bottles that would have otherwise ended up in the ocean, Kind also donates 10 per cent of the profits towards the Just One Ocean charity which raises awareness of plastic pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction. The brand’s mission is to replace some of the 1 trillion (yes, you read the correctly) single use plastic bags. Our favourite thing about this bag is not only it’s great design, but it’s size. It’s huge and can hold two or three times your usual plastic shopping bag and around 20kg.
The arms are much longer so it can easily be slung over your shoulders too. It folds down into a little pouch, is waterproof, weighs just 50g and is also 100 per cent recyclable. An absolute game changer for everything from your weekly shop to carting books and lunch around. We never leave home without it now.
Horizon athletic Rome 1960 compression leggings: £105, Horizon
Made with econyl, a recycled fibre made from abandoned fishing nets, these leggings are more than your average pair. We love the v-shaped striped crossover waistband design, which is the Australian brand’s signature style. The compression leggings are designed for medium to high impact exercise, and we found this high waist fit means they won’t budge or slip down, no matter what you do, so there won’t be any pulling up mid class. We found them to be so comfy that we were wearing them around the house too. The elasticated design is also replicated on the ankles too, and there’s a matching top in the same colour too.
Kanken Fjallraven backpack: £72.45, Surfdome
What started as a simple school bag in Sweden in 1978 designed to help school children carry lots of books has become a well-loved design around the world. It’s now sold in a huge array of colours and fabrics, and this special edition is made from 11 recycled plastic bottles. It is also dyed using “spindye”, which uses much less water than the traditional way of dying materials. We love its incredibly simple design with one main compartment, a small front pocket and thin straps. It's comfortable and useful.
Lefrik gold beat bumbag: £28, Lefrik
This Spanish brand has been making bags from recycled PET bottles since 2012 and prides itself on being functional, fashionable and eco-friendly. If you need it to tick anymore boxes, Lefrik is also vegan too (and Peta approved). Each bag is made from 10 plastic water bottles, half a metre of recycled PET material, saves 90ml of water and and 0.6kg of carbon dioxide. It’s waterproof so will keep your valuables dry even in a downpour. It’s main front compartment holds up to 2l and there’s a nifty zip pocket on the back to keep things like phones, cash and passports. The belt is adjustable so you can wear it either around your waist or slung across your chest. Available in three other colours too, including grey, olive and black.
Picture Organic snow pants: £85.45, Surfdome
Set up by three snow and skate-mad school friends in France in 2008, Picture Organic has been sustainability focused from the start. All of its products – designed for skiing, skating, surfing and outdoors – are either made from recycled plastic, organic cotton or material scraps that would otherwise be burnt, which are all responsibly sourced and free of harmful chemicals too.
These lightweight pants are pretty technical: we especially like the snow skirt, the leg vents and the fact they’re vegan. We also like the slim-fit design, but they do come up pretty snug, so think about going up a size. Available in five colours with matching jackets.
Quiksilver highline five oh 18" boardshorts: £55, Quiksilver
As one of the original surf brands, hailing from Australia in 1969, Quiksilver is best known for its surfing essential board shorts – and these are the modern day version. Teaming up with Repreve and using recycled PET nylon, around nine bottles go into each pair of shorts. Together, they have so far used more than 224 million bottles – and counting – since starting the line in January 2012.
Choose from four colour ways – including our favourite, this blue tonal pair – and expect all the normal features such as the v-shaped waist, tie fastening and fast drying.
Patagonia down sweater jacket: £200, Patagonia
For the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the brand had always been about sustainability. And that’s why its classic down sweater jackets are made from 100 per cent recycled polyester. It’s also made with goose down for the best insulation, but Patagonia promises to use only traceable non-live plucked feathers. The brand has also remodelled its long-sleeve logo tee – renamed the responsibility-tee – each of which is now made from 4.8 plastic bottles. This jacket is universal, from using it a a quick throw-on for a short walk or a base layer for a more serious walk, to casual wear too.
The verdict: Clothes made from recycled plastic
We love the Batoko swimsuit for many reasons: its amazing prints, great cut, use of plastic waste from the ocean and its limited range of designs to combat fast fashion. It’s comfy and you’ll get loads of compliments about it, too. We also really love Kind's bags for their size, designs and shear usefulness.