KUSATSU, Shiga Prefecture--A group of students has found a way to recycle cigarette butts as T-shirts and persuaded local pachinko parlors and gas stations to donate the contents of their ashtrays to their enterprise.
Shinji Sawai, a 21-year-old junior-year student at the College of Economics of Ritsumeikan University, came up with the idea after wondering if there was a way to recycle the butts littered around JR Minami-Kusatsu Station, which he uses to commute to school.
He formed a group called AIO with friends at the university’s Biwako Kusatsu campus in October last year, and enlisted the help of the school and a professor at Kyoto Institute of Technology. The group eventually succeeded in removing harmful substances from filters donated by the pachinko establishments and gas stations and recycling the filters to make thread.
They asked companies in Osaka and Wakayama prefectures to do the spinning and weaving. About 30 percent of the fibers used for the T-shirts are from cigarette filters.
Although the surface of the fabric is slightly uneven because the thickness of the recycled fiber is not always equal, Sawai said it had been well received by a clothing industry professional, who said it was well-ventilated and highly absorbent.
Student models were due to take to the catwalk wearing the T-shirts at a fashion show on Nov. 3 hosted by the Kyoto Kimono federation in front of the Karasuma-Chuo exit of JR Kyoto Station. The show was part of the 26th National Cultural Festival in Kyoto 2011, which runs until Nov. 6. AIO entered the show’s eco-business section.
"Because it is a fashion show held as part of the National Cultural Festival, we'd like visitors to enjoy the show while we promote ways to recycle the filters," Sawai said.
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