Recycle your tee shirt
Creating new fashion that helps the environment
Almost every city and state of the U.S. has now considered and eventually adopted legislation banning the use of plastic straws or bags in stores and restaurants because of the potential and real threat they present to the environment: to the food we eat, to the water we drink and the air we breathe. But, what about the clothing we wear? A recent article by Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D. in Fast Company’s website cast a new light on how the fashion industry is making a contribution to the health of the planet.
Natural and synthetic fibers made up of complex, non-biodegradable textile blends are difficult to break down. When disposed of in the landfills, they remain forever. But, what do you do if your favorite T-shirt has holes in it, if a table cloth has permanent stains, if your shoes are worn out, if a dress has a tear that can’t be fixed?
For years, engineers have been focused on recycling various materials from paper, to plastic, to aluminum. But, increasing concerns about protecting and preserving a healthy environment have motivated individuals, businesses and communities alike to consider how recycling of other materials might be possible. In fact, a few companies and factories have already been working on developing a new system of fabric recycling.
A favorite T-shirt brand known for its soft fabric, Marine Layer has partnered with Recover, a textile factory in Spain, to develop a recycling technique that uses no chemicals, dyes or water in the processing of breaking textiles down, separating the fibers and re-spinning them into new yarns.
Founded by a Spanish family in 1947, and known for their commitment to sustainability, Recover has been working for decades to develop this particular recycling technique. It runs on solar energy and is certified by organizations such as Global Recycled Standard, which verifies that recycled content is present in products and ensures responsible production.
Most clothes are made up of fabric blends (cotton with nylon, for example). Recover separates the different fibers to extract the cotton to recycle it. They keep the length of fibers as long as possible during the shredding process since it renders the cloth more resistant to pilling.
Since the recycled cotton is not as strong as virgin fibers, they weave it with other fibers like hemp, recycled water bottles or recycled nylons. They also separate fibers by color, and then, through a color-matching process, recreate each color without needing to use toxic chemicals or dyes, or even water.
The recycled fibers are industrially cleaned by the use of ultraviolet rays. In contrast, the process of cleaning virgin cotton uses 15,000 pounds of water for 2.2 pounds of virgin cotton, which includes the farming, processing and dyeing process, according to a study from the University of Valencia.
Since Marine Layer’s business was especially known for their T-shirts, this seemed the most logical place to start their new recycling endeavor. Michael Natenshon, founder of the company, came up with the idea of a circular system for making T-shirts, branding them as “Re-Spun” on its website, which invites customers to send in their shirts, thereby providing the raw material. They receive up to a $25 store credit.
- Emilie Christy