Podcast 90, MAKE DENIM CIRCULAR
Denim is ubiquitous. According to the British anthropologists Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward, we wear jeans on average 3.5 days a week. In 2017, the global jeans market was worth USD $57 billion. Almost 2 billion pairs were sold around the world in the same year. That is a lot of jeans…
It’s also a lot of jeans waste.
According to The New Textiles Economy report, less than 1% of used clothing is recycled into new clothing. We’re landfilling and incinerating discarded, unloved clothes at increasing rates, while at the same time decreasing clothing use over time.
The Jeans Redesign Guidelines from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation seek to solve this. Can they get everyone on board?
WHAT WE TALK ABOUT…
THE GUIDELINES In February 2019, Make Fashion Circular brought together a group of industry experts in an intensive workshop, to collaboratively test and further develop a common vision of what good looks like for jeans. The Guidelines were the outcome - the define a starting point for the industry to design and produce jeans in accordance with the principles of a circular economy at scale.
They are divided into four areas: durability, material health, recyclability, and traceability. Participating brands commit to making the redesigned jeans available on the market by end of May 2021, drive actions to bridge innovation gaps and raise the industry ambition level, and report the number of redesigned jeans produced according to the Guidelines to Make
WHO’S IN? The full list of participants as of launch is: Arvind Limited, Bestseller (through the Vero Moda brand), Boyish Jeans, C&A, GAP, Hirdaramani, H&M Group (through the H&M and Weekday brands), HNST, Kipas, Lee Jeans, Mud Jeans, OUTERKNOWN, Reformation, Sai-Tex, Tommy Hilfiger. The following have endorsed the guidelines: Bank and Vogue, Circular Systems, EVRNU, HKRITA, I:CO, Infinited Fiber Company, Lenzing, Recover, re:newcell, Texaid, Tyton Biosciences LLC, Wolkat, and Worn Again. They have also been endorsed by the NGOs Fashion Revolution and Textile Exchange.
BANK & VOGUE is a Canadian textile recycler.
I:CO short for I:Collect, is a respected global solutions provider and innovator for collection, reuse and recycling of used clothing and shoes.
RE:NEWCELL technology dissolves used cotton and other natural fibres into a new, biodegradable raw material (pulp) that can be turned into textiles. More here.
CHEMICAL RECYCLING VS. SHREDDING “By dissolving your product you can remove the dyes and treatments and that way you are left with a purer fibres,” says Francois. The process can also prevent the length/integrity of the fibre from diminishing. Shredding does what it says on the tin - mechanically tears the fabrics to bits so that it can we re-spun.
ALTERNATIVES TO STONEWASH MUD JEANS use a process they call “No-stone stonewash” that involves “attaching abrasive parts in the washing machine that create the same effect when the jeans are falling onto it as when they are washed with stones.” Fascinating. JEANOLOGIA meanwhile has long championed laser technology for achieving no-stress distress
INDIGO Natural indigo is a plant, and can be used to replenish nature. The Australian brand Bassike makes its jeans in Japan, where the excess indigo is used as compost on local rose gardens. But synthetic indigo dyes are derived from coal tar and toxic chemicals and are slow to decompose. According to a 2015 Guardian piece by Lucy Siegle, they are used in most jeans, and in 90% of jeans from China.
C2C G-star Raw launched their first Cradle to Cradle certified™ Gold denim in 2017 – they’re organic and the indigo dye processes 70% less chemicals and no salts, with 98% of the water recycled. They also removed the rivets…
According to Sourcing Journal: “To qualify for a C2C certification, products must undergo a slew of tests for human and environmental health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, carbon management, water stewardship and social justice. Ratings are based on five levels: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. G-Star Raw partnered with Saitex and DyStar to concoct, from 100 percent organic cotton, the first-ever C2C Certified Gold denim, C&A opted for something with a bit more stretch. It worked with Arvind Limited to employ biocompatible elastane from Roica by Asahi Kasei and approved dyes from DyStar, but some components, such as the fabric lining of the waistband, required a complete overhaul.”
RIVETING It was Levi’s Strauss that added metal rivets to denim trousers to make them last longer during the gold rush. Listen to Episode 85 on the company’s sustainability initiatives here.
The Guidelines recommend rivets be removed entirely or reduced to a minimum because they’re so hard to disassemble for recycling.
MATERIAL HEALTH The aim: source cellulosic fibres that are organic, from regenerative farming or “in transition” (i.e. “when farmers incentivised to move towards organic, but they are not there yet,” says Francois).
TRACEABILITY Basically, we need to be able to track assets. Quoting the Guidelines: “Recycling processes rely on accurate detection of materials and sorting to ensure well-defined material streams (either a single material or well-defined combinations of materials, including blends). Universal tracking and tracing technologies – integrated in the design of clothing and aligned to processes across the value chain – could support the identification of materials in the system.” The new logo is designed to help, but we obviously need more. More collaboration, more regulation, more action from the industry.
#WEARNEXT is a consumer campaign run in New York by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation with the city’s Department of Sanitation, New York City Economic Development Corporation, collectors, recyclers, resale companies to encourage people to bring their unwanted clothes at drop off points. The message? Clothes are not trash.
A NOTE ON OUR MUSIC: IT IS BY OUR FRIEND MONTAIGNE, WHO SANG A SPECIAL ACOUSTIC VERSION OF "BECAUSE I LOVE YOU" JUST FOR US. IT'S FROM HER ALBUM GLORIOUS HEIGHTS.
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