A Green Revolution in Fashion Is Coming
Recycling has always been a niche concept. Modern technology is trying to change that. Can recycling finally go mainstream?
The article was originally published in WeNaturalists, as a part of the curated section by the editorial team. For more similar stories head to our Explore section.
Consumers of the fashion industry are increasingly concerned about its negative impact on climate change. A survey conducted by McKinsey in April 2020 found that 88 percent of respondents believe that the industry needs to prioritize reducing pollution caused due to industrial practices. Of the 2000 respondents surveyed in the UK and Germany, 57 percent are actively making lifestyle changes. 60 percent of respondents say they are taking an effort to recycle as well as opt for sustainable products.
One Company Is Taking Great Strides To Make Fashion Sustainable
Jeans have revolutionized the fashion industry since its invention. Ever since Levi Strauss introduced the first pair of jeans to the world, day to day fashion has completely changed. The invention of jeans or denims and later the T-shirt made casuals an acceptable form of attire.
No longer were men obligated to wear suits or formal shirts for when they went about in their everyday life. Just a simple T-shirt and a pair of jeans became the preferred choice for daily mundane tasks. Jeans became the standard outfit for everyone from youngsters to the hippies and from bachelors to tech CEOs. And when the women’s rights movement went mainstream, T-shirts and denims became a truly universal attire, worn by everyone regardless of their gender.
The credit for this revolution undoubtedly goes to Levi Strauss. Not only did he create a fashionable garment, he made it durable and low cost, thus making it attractive to people from all walks of life. Riding on the success of his invention, his company became one of the largest clothing brands in the world.
Levi’s has always been at the forefront of innovation. They have been the pioneers with innovative products based on the consumer’s demand. And now when the consumers are increasingly demanding eco-friendly and sustainable products, Levi’s has once again lived up to their reputation.
Their newest line-up of denims, called the 502 line, has been created from recycled old jeans.
Levi’s has used an innovative technology developed by a Swedish startup called Renewcell, for their new jeans. This new technology aims to recycle old jeans by turning them into high quality, long fiber called “Circulose” — a form of rayon. This circulose is blended with organic cotton to produce the jeans.
Since Circulose has a rough texture, it can’t be entirely used for the production of jeans as of now. But the company believes that with a little R&D, the material can be made more cotton-like. Levi’s ultimately aims to use 100% circulose in their garments.
Old Is New and Hip
Levi’s has been trying to recycle their old jeans for a long time now. But their older fabric recycling technology, which chopped cotton into smaller pieces, didn’t work well because it degraded the quality of the material.
That’s where Renewcell’s technology came in. Their technology worked by reconstructing the cotton differently, dissolving it and then forcing the pulp-like material through tiny nozzles to form stronger and better quality threads.
Even better is that the jeans are also designed to be more easily recycled themselves, with the use of trims and tags made from recyclable cotton, which earlier were made from other materials.
This not only allows recycling of old jeans but also reduces the wastage of worn out jeans by recycling them over and over again thus creating a circular economy. This would give a massive boost to the sustainable fashion movement.
Let’s Go From Niche To Mainstream
The fashion industry is among the most water and resource intensive ones. Growing the cotton to make a pair of jeans uses more than 2,500 liters of water. This technology would dramatically reduce the amount of water consumed during the production process, thereby saving us a precious resource. It would also shrink the carbon and chemical footprint of the industries.
The invention of recycled jeans is truly a watershed moment. If adopted on a global scale, it will bring about a revolution just as big as the invention of jeans brought in the first place.
But this time, the benefits would be far greater. While the earlier invention benefited only the people by providing them with affordable clothing, this invention would also benefit the planet by lowering the strain on its resources.
These are the kinds of innovations this world needs more of. As technology continues to advance, many more companies are coming up with such innovations.
The spanish textile factory Recover is one such company. It has come up with a process to recycle T-shirts in an ecofriendly way. Recover makes T-shirts by breaking down and separating fabric blends and then extracting cotton fibres from them. These recycled fibres are then mixed with sustainably-sourced cotton, hemp and recycled plastic fibres to add strength. Recover separates the fibres by colour, thus eliminating the need for chemicals. Since this process does not require water, it delivers tremendous environmental savings.
Not only startups, but established brands are also moving towards sustainable fashion. Global fashion giant H&M has recently introduced their ninth Conscious Exclusive line of textiles that is made from fruit waste. H&M has partnered with three companies — BLOOM Foam, Orange Fiber and Piñatex — to create this latest line-up which would help raise awareness about the wastefulness in the fashion industry.
BLOOM Foam uses algae biomass to make a flexible, lightweight material used in shoe soles. Orange Fiber uses discarded orange peels from citrus juice production to create an environmentally-friendly alternative to silk. And Piñatex uses the leaves of pineapples, an agricultural waste product, to produce vegan leather.
Innovative technologies like these can bring recycling into the mainstream. For years, recycling was considered impractical as the products produced from recycled materials were of substandard quality. But thanks to modern technologies, that has begun to change.
Saving The Planet: It’s Up to All of Us
If recycling is adopted on an industry wide scale, it could lead the industry on a sustainable path. That would dramatically reduce the strain on natural resources and help in preserving them. It all depends on the industry’s willingness to implement recycling in their standard manufacturing process. Lest we forget, as consumers, we need to go out of our way to choose environmentally friendly products.
If we manage to do this, the fashion industry will become an exemplar of transition to sustainability and environmental friendliness for all other industries out there.
And that would be a great accomplishment, without a doubt.