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Denim's Waste Solutions

With the emergence of many new sustainable denim brands, sustainable fashion coalitions and initiatives, there is no doubt the fashion industry needs a clean up, and denim in particular has been under attack for being one of the worst offenders. 6 BILLION jeans are produced a year, and 30% (1.8 billion jeans) never actually get worn or used. But, fashion’s waste problem isn’t solely due to unsold stock. The amount of waste produced from production is hard to comprehend, but innovative technologies are developing that are helping solve fashion’s waste problem. Let’s take a look at how some of the leading denim brands are implementing new technology to lessen their environmental impact, and minimize waste.

It was amazing to hear Kontoor’s Director of Global Sustainable Business, Roian Atwood, speak about Wrangler’s action plan for a more responsible supply chain - their efforts should be an inspiration for other mass market brands. One of the newest technologies they announced at Kingpins Show in Amsterdam was Indigood, a foam dyeing process created in partnership with Tejidos Royo and Texas Tech University. Indigood claims to use 100% less water, which virtually eliminates wastewater and reduces energy use and waste by more than 60%. This new process eliminates the need for reduction chemicals creating “an elegant one-process step,” says Roian. How does it work? Fibre2Fashion explains that the foam is made from a watery solution, which includes a foaming agent and a carrier for the dye stuff. The indigo dye is then transferred to yarns in an oxygen-deprived environment sealed by a nitrogen hood. This is a revolutionary process that has been in development for nearly a decade and is now being rolled out in some of Wrangler’s cheaper products, as well as their higher end items. Kings of Indigo is another brand whose ethos and values include a holistic approach to their supply chain by analyzing all areas of concern. This full comprehensive report of the brand’s impact explains all of the sustainable processes they have implemented in creating their products, but also the impacts these sustainable methods still have on the planet. One aspect of their zero waste goal is to increase the 15.03% use of recycled fibres in their garments. One way they are doing this is through Lenzing’s newest product Refibra. Tencel explains, Refibra is a fibre made from pre-consumer cotton scraps combined with wood pulp, meaning it only relies on re-using what has already been made to create fresh fibres for use. It is also produced with Tencel’s Lyocell closed loop system, helping support the circular economy in textiles.

As fast fashion has consumed the industry, a lot of clothing produced today is made with blended fibres for added comfort and performance. According to the World Economic Forum, clothing is being worn 40% less than the previous generation and when it is discarded, 73% of it is either burned or sent to the landfill. 12% of what gets collected will most likely be mechanically recycled to be used for insulation or mattress, and less than 1% of what is collected is actually used to make new clothing. The solution? Better quality clothing!

The circular economy truly relies on good quality clothing and textile recycling, which can either be done mechanically or chemically. Mechanical textile recycling is the easiest form that involves deconstructing the fabrics to be turned into new ones, but Fashion For Good notes that this process generally results in low-value output like insulation. Chemical recycling is a newer technology, one that Adriano Goldschmeid predicts will be the norm in 10-15 years. At Kingpins Transformers last month, Re:Newcell presented their new recycling technology that allows cotton and viscose to be dissolved. This process involves chemically processing the material, turning it into a pulp, and extruding it into new fibres. Chemical recycling offers the potential to create fibre of equal or higher quality, where one can see one t-shirt recycled for one t-shirt made. However, it is still difficult to recycle blended fibres, which is an area of focus innovative brands are looking at.

Ultimately, a culture shift is needed for people to curb there fast fashion cravings and embrace secondhand and vintage clothing. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour urges people to value the clothes they have and pass them on.

“I think for all of us it means an attention more on craft, on creativity,” she told the Independent, “and less on the idea of clothes that are instantly disposable, things that you will throw away just after one reading.”

I challenge you to ask yourself the three questions Tenue asks every customer before buying:

1. Do I really need this?

2. What is it made out of and where was it made?

3. What will I do when I am done with it?

I hope you enjoyed this post and let me know what you thought was the coolest new innovation in the comments or on my Instagram! For the meantime, STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS!


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