This question of recycling of regenerated materials, is linked to the problem of accumulation of waste. The consumer buys more and more clothes, is attached by low prices, and succumbs to trends and fashion. The major problem with low-cost garments is quality : they damage and deform very quickly (sometimes in a wash, the product is deformed) and the consumer gets rid of his product to buy another one. The infernal spiral is set in motion, and today, the agglomerated waste in the world becomes islands that travel the oceans…
All sectors are working hard to find solutions to better manage waste. Thus, rapid technological and environmental advances are everywhere in our society today. Creative advances in recycling are increasingly present and achievable.
For this article, we will use the term “regenerated” instead of recycled because the term regenerated inspires a renewal, a new life, new from the old. At a conference last November, I learned that the term recycled will disappear from the labels on clothing, because this word is not selling, and does not reject a very clean image of the product. Yes, It is in the mind, but it is complicated to make the consumer understand that a recycled product is not dirty. But then, a change of term seems to be a good alternative in order to make the customer want to buy.
The regenerated yarns
Compared to a yarn made with new materials, regenerated yarns are on average 98% less impacting on the environment. The list of opportunities and products using second-life textiles is growing fast ! Think of furniture, shoes, clothing, automotive parts, packaging, filters, carpets, insulation and construction materials, etc.
There are two ways to create a new yarn with old fibers :
The mechanical process
Here, we extract the fiber, scrape it and the fibers come out. In the end, there is no more clothing, just fibers, and those fibers will become clothing again. The properties of the fibers will be less good than new fibers, because the fibers are smaller. Ideally, these recycled fibres should be mixed with virgin fibres to provide the same properties as a new fibre.
The chemical process
Here, we melt the garment to obtain the basic polymer. Once the piece melts, we do yarns again, to recreate a garment.
In both cases, converting recycled fibres is quite energy-intensive, but opportunities will soon appear to reduce energy consumption. On the market, there will be more and more regenerated materials, and with qualities and properties as good as new materials.
Regenerated Wool (Italy) :
An italian company, starts with collection of textile waste, mainly wool, but not that, then transforms them into fiber by a mechanical process. Once the yarn is obtained, it is knitted to become a garment. All this with traceability and a very transparent production line that has been recognized as a model of good practice for eco-responsible manufacturing. Congratulations to this company!
Clothing from regenerated polyester (Italy, Iceland) :
The Waterkeeper® Alliance Ocean Plastic Recovery Initiative is mobilizing a broad network of companies around the world to establish a plastic recycling and recovery infrastructure to prevent plastic pollution at sea. This network uses recycling facilities where recovered plastic is consolidated, sorted and packaged.
An Icelandic company called BIONIC, acquires these processed plastics in exchange for a donation calculated at the fair market value of the packaged goods. BIONIC then reuses the plastic to create yarns for fashion.
Newlife™ (Italy) is a unique, complete and certified system of recycled polyester filament yarns made from 100% post-consumer bottles, processes into polymer by a mechanical, non chemical process, and spun entirely in Italy.
The fields of application are numerous :
- Fashion and sportswear
- Technical underwear and clothing
- Working and medical clothing
- Outdoor clothing
From regenerated fishing net to sneakers
The German supplier has partnered with the NGO Parley for the Oceans to change the production and communication of its products to make them “ocean friendly”. Last July, Adidas presented shoes made entirely from pieces of fishing nets collected at sea. The raw material is not only recycled, but the assembly of these yarns makes it possible to waste less material. Strict application of Lavoisier’s law : Nothing is lost…
You will find a more complete article about Adidas sneakers on the Blog of Sauvages.fr, a blog that showcases all kinds of ecological and ethical initiatives.
Regenerated Cotton :
Today, technological progress does not allow us (yet) to create a 100% cotton canvas with recycled cotton. Making 100% cotton recycled clothing is actually not possible from a technological point of view. The recycling process damages the fiber (the shortcut) so to obtain a durable yarn, which holds and does not detach, it is necessary to add a recycled synthetic fiber whose length can be controlled.
The regenerated polycotton is the most accessible material according to my research on the subject (60ctn/40 or 70ctn/30)
Non-woven and felt in regenerated materials
In northern France, a company uses regenerated cotton to manufacture a range of thermal & acoustic insulation in recycled cotton for the building. It insulates against cold and heat, but also noise. It has exceptional acoustic properties thanks to the cotton that composes it.
Recycled cashmere (Italy)
The recovery process takes place in Tuscany, in a family factory where artisans sort out the unused cashmere sweaters to select high quality knits. The sweaters are stripped and cut into separate panels. The panels are then machine-shredded and discolored. Then the cashmere fibers are re-dyed and re-spun into yarns.
The market Places recycled fibre fabrics :
I found some interesting market place that allow you to buy all kinds of regenerated fabrics like :
- Regenerated polyester
- Regenerated nylon
There are also suppliers of finished products, which produce sweaters, t-shirts made of recycled material. So, all you have to do is put your logo on it. (contact me for more information).
As a designer, picture your products by working on eco-design. Imagine the end of life of the products. To promote chemical recycling, favor pure fibers (a polyester garment for example) so that they can be melted directly. Avoid embroidery or zip, which does not help with recycling.
Among the brands :
The clothing brand Hopaal offers regenerated polycotton sweaters, accompanied by a comparison between a “normal” sweater and a “Future” sweater :
The essential readings :
- L’ecodesign à partir de déchets textiles : plus cher ? Complexe ? Marginal ? rien n’est moins sûr !
Textile recycling and fashion : the state of the art
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