In this article, I'll tell you about the expanding trend of using recycled materials in clothing. Making clothing out of recycled materials has it's challenges. But the prizes are big: reduced energy consumption, smaller carbon footprint, reduced resource consumption and reduced chemical consumption make it well worth-while.
If you stilll haven't noticed, recycled materials have taken the fashion world by storm. Even big fashion brands and fast fashion companies have embraced the growing phenomenon of sustainable textiles and with it recycled materials.
And you know what?
The only reason for this development is you, our beloved conscious consumers, and your greener shopping habits. Cheers!
What are Recycled Materials?
When we talk about recycled materials, in all simplicity, it means that a material that has been used for one purpose is re-molded to be used again for the same purpose or for another.
For example, cotton or wool can be torn appart into fibers and put back together into new yarn. Or old PET-bottle can be molded into fibers and yarn and sown into a swimsuit.
VAI-KØ Cavas Bags are made of 100% recycled cotton. Check out all the designs, click the picture!
Saving the Environment with Recycled Materials
Recycling materials is game-changing with both synthetic and natural materials. With recycled polyester it is estimated that 76% of the energy and 71% of the carbon dioxide emissions can be saved compared to using virgin polyester.
And the same goes with natural fibers: it takes 11,000 liters of fresh water to grow 1 kilogram of cotton and recycling it takes a tiny tiny fraction of that. In a areas where cotton is mostly grown, fresh water is not something taken for granted, so saving about 11,000 liters of water per kg is a life-saving amount.
Eco-friendly Doesn't Often Mean Ethical
This recycled materials revolution, if you may, is great progress that is mandatory if we'd like to have clothes and a somewhat healthy planet in the future. But eco-friendly doesn't automatically come with ethical production. We've collected a nice tight infopack on How to Recognize a Sustainable Fashion Brand HERE! Check it out.
Challenges with Quality
The number one challenge with using sustainable recycled materials is with quality. In order to succesfully tear apart and re-mold a material into usable clothing the source material has to be good quality. That is why recycled materials are most often blended with other materials, which decreases the environmental benefits.
Cheaply made fast fashion clothing is made of bad quality material: the fibers are short resulting in fizzing and tearing. It's quite common for holes appear in fast fashion pieces after just a couple uses. This kind of material cannot be recycled into new clothing.
Natural fibres are the easiest to take apart and put back together. So that's one more reason to favour natural materials. Also pure not blended material fibres require the smallest amount of processing. Solid coloured textiles allow easy re-dying and white clothes are naturally the easiest to reuse.
Could Wool Be Anymore Eco-friendly?
We at VAI-KØ want to always go further with doing clothing as environmentally friendly as possible. We already use only Organic Merino Wool that is certified by two systems to ensure ethical and eco-friendly production (read more about certificates HERE). But what about recycled wool?
With recycled pure wool fabric, energy consumption is thought to be half of that needed to produce virgin material. However, recycling is not yet where it should be to produce high-quality products.
For 200 years wool recycling technology has stayed the same: fibers are extracted from used fabric by mechanically tearing the fabric apart using carding machines. The process breaks the fibers, producing more shortened lengths that tend to make a low-quality yarn.
New innovations are developed all the time and we are confident that in the future we won’t have to compromise on quality to have highly energy-efficient and exceptionally sustainable recycled wool products. Therefore we are continuously on the look for new materials and production technologies! (For example, read more about Tencel HERE!)