Japan recycles bras into fuel

Many of us recycle our clothes by donating them to second hand stores, but bras rarely get this kind of treatment.

In Japan, women are being encouraged to recycle their bras by the major underwear manufacturer Wacoal. The company started its recycling program back in 2008 to raise its profile as an environmental brand. The metal underwire is removed from the bra and the remaining material is converted into a fuel that can be used for boilers and power generation facilities.

Many women in Japan feel uneasy about tossing their underwear in the trash; regulation states all garbage must be disposed of in clear bags, which means any private items are on full view. One woman even stated she cut her bras up into pieces before putting them in the trash. The retailer saw an opportunity to relieve this anxiety with the recycling program, while giving women the added benefit of contributing to a worthy cause.

At this time the company has collected enough bras to make 17.9 tons of fuel, and has expanded the program to some of its stores in Taiwan.

Wacoal isn’t the only company making the effort to recycle. Triumph International Japan Ltd. – who also make undergarments – joined the movement in 2009, and has since collected enough used underwear to create 14 tons of fuel.

The fuel that is created – known as RPF – is similar to coal, but emits far less carbon dioxide and costs 75 per cent less than coal.

According to the Japan RPF Association, producing RPF out of bras is the only known way of recycling the undergarments that has been discovered to date.

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Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Morten Olsen