This family-owned textile factory is pushing for a more sustainable future with dtac

dtac “Think Hai d” t-shirts are now made of plastic bottles and old clothes, saving thousands of liters per shirt.

While dtac isn’t a clothing brand, the company does produce a line of branded items sold at the dtac House headquarters. As dtac curbs its environmental impact across its entire supply chain, the mobile operator turned its attention to the t-shirts it produces.

The manufacturing of a single t-shirt can require enough water to quench a human’s thirst for three years. Moreover, the textile and fashion industry account for 10 per cent of the world’s total carbon-dioxide emissions today. It is the second biggest polluter, behind the energy industry.

Thus began dtac’s search for a way to curb its fashion line’s carbon footprint, which led to contracting Saeng Charoen Grand Company Limited (SC GRAND), Thailand’s first textile recycling factory.

Jirarot “Wat” Pojanavaraphan, managing director and third-generation owner of SC GRAND , told dtac blog, “For dtac’s t-shirt production, we use two sources of recycled materials: old clothes and plastic bottles. The result is a recycled polyester fiber blend. With four old t-shirts and four plastic bottles, we can make one brand-new t-shirt!”

The process begins with separating textile waste by color and fully recycling it. This enables SC GRAND to bypass the dyeing process, saving 2,700 liters of water per t-shirt and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 3.9 kg.CO2e per t-shirt.

“At SC GRAND, results are measured for each batch of manufacturing to determine how much water and pure plastic we have saved, and how much carbon-dioxide emissions we have cut,” Jirarot said. “After 50 years in existence, we have become the country’s first textile recycling factory.”

Circular Fashion in Focus

There are many raw materials for yarn-making. Among them are cotton, silk, wool, oil, and plastic bottles. Cotton and plastic (polyester), however, are the most popular choices for yarn makers. Between 70 and 80 per cent of garments at department stores today are made from cotton or polyester fabrics.

Conventionally, textile making has functioned in the linear economy whereby new resources are used for manufacturing and waste from the manufacturing is disposed of. But today, the circular economy concept has taken a foothold in the textile industry. Based on this, resources in the system are used and then recycled with a minimal intake of new raw materials.

“Thailand’s circular fashion economy is now facing many challenges such as high production costs and a complicated color-separation processes. Making a batch of yarn is only worth it for at least 10,000 T-shirts. Moreover, we had to invest a lot of money in new machinery. Another challenge is that most players in Thailand’s fashion industry still don’t understand the importance of sustainability. We need to educate the Thai market as sustainable fashion is now a global mega trend. It has already caught on in the United States, China and Europe. The Thai textile industry will have to head towards this direction in the end,” Jirarot explained.

Inspirations behind “Big Move”

“I had never considered environmental issues as something so close to our daily life until I attended an overseas exhibition. There, I came across the Smart Fashion zone. Showcasing textile innovations, it was the busiest corner at the event. Exhibits included orange-peel fiber, hemp fiber and various other types of eco-friendly fibers. I talked to futurists of the world’s textile industry there and came to a realization that environmental problems had already called everyone into action,” Mr. Jirarot said.

Once he took charge of SC GRAND’s management, he searched for more information on the textile industry’s impact on the environment. In turn, this led to new manufacturing processes and marketing efforts to educate consumers.

“Thailand had over 100 factories producing yarns in the past. But today, the number is down to just a few dozen due to cheaper production costs in other countries, such as India,” he said. “In such circumstances, the shift towards circular fashion is a way for Thai yarn makers to survive as the providers of valuable raw materials for the region’s garment industry.”

Mr. Jirarot expects SC GRAND to become the region’s foremost sustainable textile provider by 2025: a textile recycling hub, made-to-order textile manufacturer, and a provider of full traceability and carbon-footprint information. As textiles get smarter, dtac may be more than just a logo on a t-shirt, powering SC Grand’s high-tech vision of sustainable textiles.