Circular

Landfill

3 Things You Should Know About Recycled Garments

Aniek

Hi! My name is Aniek Baltussen. I am a sustainable business graduate who loves fashion and sees sustainable fashion as the future. “Green is the new black”. 

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Each year in Europe over 6 million tonnes of clothing is consumed. Also, each year in Europe about 16 million tonnes of textile waste is generated (including towels, carpets, bed sheets, … well, you get the picture).

Unfortunately, clothes are treated as single waste items, which obviously causes huge sustainability issues. On one hand we throw our garments easily ‘away’ while on the other hand we purchase new garments made from new resources. Shouldn’t we be able to close the loop and start imitating nature with its beautiful designed ecosystems and reuse this garment waste?

Did you know that currently only about 15% of the wasted textile material is recycled and most part of this is being downcycled? This means that the recycled textile is of lower quality and functionality than the original material. Often, it’s used as car stuffing or cleaning cloths. Rarely is it upcycled into new high quality, functional garments again.

But how come we see more and more fashion brands offering items from recycled textiles? What’s this about? Is it another type of greenwashing or can we really trust that these materials are more sustainable than materials that come from ‘virgin’ resources? When a brand sells for example ‘contains recycled cotton’ garments or ‘made from recycled polyester’ you should keep these things in mind:

T-shirt

1. 100% recycled garments are rare (for now)

Considering current recycling technologies, it is the case that 100% recycled textiles is much more expensive and/or of lower quality than virgin materials. Recycled content is therefore often mixed with virgin fibers to enhance the quality or financial costs of the item. Is that a bad thing? No, not necessarily. First, it shows current developments with the use of recycled textiles. The positive impact of 100 companies producing their fabrics with 10% recycled material is far more than one brand selling 100% recycled content-garments. Let’s call it economies of scale. Second, there are a lot of current technologies working to a higher and higher percentage of recycled textiles. For example, MUD Jeans is working on creating the first 100% recycled jeans in 2020 and UPSET is working on the production of 100% recycled cotton yarn. Keep an eye on these developments!

Fashion store

2. Recycled content from non-textile resources

Clothes made from recycled textile can also be made from a fabric with recycled content that was originally another item. For example, creating swimwear from recycled PET bottles. If these PET bottles were wasted and would otherwise be thrown away and go into landfill, or incinerated, it’s better to create clothes from it. RIGHT?! Great example of upcycling.

Another example is creating nylon from abandoned fishing nets, which contributes to cleaner oceans (hurray!). Creating clothes from other waste material as a resource, does not necessarily contribute to a lower textile waste pile, although it does diminish the use of raw material for clothing production.

We should keep in mind that upcycling processes shouldn’t be hazardous to the environment or people. So, keep asking your favorite brand how this product came to be.

Ocean

3. No official definition of recycled textile yet

At the moment there is no definition or agreement to what textile recycling means. Even an item that contains the lowest percentage of recycled material can be labelled with this information. The NEN (Dutch organisation that creates technical definitions) is currently working on a definition for recycled textiles. For example, they consider whether a recycled product can also contain virgin material or whether it should be made from textile-to-textile recycling only. This will create much more understanding in the future.

So, when purchasing clothes from recycled textile, know that there are good developments going. But also keep on asking brands what they exactly mean with their labels, with above named top three in mind. Being informed is key to making a considerate buying decision, as we vote with our money the kind of world we’d like to see.

Do you want to know more about recycled textiles or do you have questions for Aniek or Rachel? Feel free to do that in the comments below. Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.


Transparent fashion supply chains

Transparent Supply Chains Explained. Is This Fashion's New Norm?

Rachel founder Rethink Rebels

Hi!
I’m Rachel
You have gifts to
change the fashion 
industry into a sustainable one
and my job is to help you
using these gifts.

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Transparent supply chains is the norm for responsible companies. Rethink Rebels believes transparency is the first step to transform the fashion industry because of the simple thought “If you know what’s wrong, you can change it for better”. But why, oh why, is it so darn difficult to get transparency? Let us get down to the bottom of it.

Naked transparency

Fashion’s complex global production network

Fashion. One of the most complex global production networks. Global supply chains are opaque and consumers lack information. A simple ‘made in China’ label doesn’t say much about if the garment worker has a good job making the T-Shirt, now does it? We simply don’t know. We are increasingly disconnected from the people who make our garments. Did you know that 97% of our garments are made overseas? Feels a bit like we took ‘see nothing, hear nothing’ too literally, right? And yeah, we say we. Because we all buy clothes and have a common responsibility here…

We want transparency. Bad.

There is a growing trend of global apparel companies adopting supply chain transparency. Step by step brands starting to publishing the names, addresses, and other important information about factories manufacturing their branded products. For example G-Star Raw & H&M are showing this on their website already. Check out our post about Mud Jeans and how they report on transparency here.

At the same time, consumer interest in transparency has increased. The conversations and comments of consumers on social media have a growing impact on the perception and the sustainability performance of fashion brands. For example asking your favorite brand #whomademyclothes organized by Fashion Revolution. In response more companies make traceability a part of their value proposition and communication.

Gstar factory overview

Above picture shows the factories of G-Star

 

Transparency as tool for sustainable production

Transparency is a powerful tool for sustainable production and promoting corporate accountability for garment workers’ rights in these global supply chains. Brands and manufactures are enabled to identify challenges and risks along their supply chain. Also to get a better understanding to manage opportunities and introduce more sustainable practices. Transparency makes supply chains more efficient and enables more informed business decisions. Lastly, transparency equips companies with data which they can use for external communication and show the impact of products in a credible way.

Transparency Pledge

In 2016, 9 labor and human rights organizations formed a coalition to advocate for transparency in apparel supply chains as a first step. In 2017 the transparency pledge was signed by G-Star Raw, C&A, Zeeman and Esprit. In November 2019, 8 companies joined this pledge:

Okimono, Alchemist, Marlies Dekkers, Kings of Indigo, Kuyichi, WE fashion, Schrijvens Corporate fashion and HEMA. Yay! More to follow please.

Transparency pledge signees

Goal: Creating a supply chain standard

Simply said, signees promise to make their production locations known in a place that is accessible to citizens. Brands show their factories and sub-suppliers that are needed to manufacture a garment and update this regularly. By getting companies to publish standardized, meaningful information on all CMT (Cut Make Trim) factories it’s possible to create a common minimum standard for the supply chain.  Each company that signs this pledge commits to these steps within 3 months of commitment:

  1. Full name of all authorized production units and processing facilities (processing factories include printing, embroidery, laundry, and so on)

  2. The site addresses.

  3. The parent company of the business at the site

  4. Type of products made (apparel, footwear, home textile, accessories)

  5. Worker numbers at each site (by category: less than 1000, 10001-5000, 5001-10.000, more than 10.000)

Taking it further

Overall companies are increasing visibility in the supply chain, which is good. The focus still lies mainly on the processing and garment manufacturing stages. We need to address the complete supply chain with all chains involved. Think about manufacturing including wet processing such as dying and printing but also knitting, weaving, raw material processing and production. It’s a step into the right direction. Because we believe that little achievements produce big results. We are moving into the right direction and together we are able to transform the most complex global production networks into a sustainable one. Ready for the challenge?

Check here all transparent international production locations at Open Apparel Registry: https://openapparel.org/

Ready for to dive deep? Have a look at Fashion Revolution’s ‘Fashion Transparency Index 2019’.   

Do you want to know more or do you have questions for Rachel? Feel free to do that in the comments below. Do you see mistakes? Let us know! Do you want to stay informed? Sign up for our Newsletter or social via Facebook and Instagram.