- Seattle-based textile recycler Evrnu has teamed up with Levi Strauss & Co. to create what they say is the first pair of jeans made from post-consumer cotton waste. Five used cotton T-shirts went into producing the new pair of Levi's 511 jeans
- Evrnu uses a process that breaks textile waste down to the molecular level and turns it into new fabric. They say this process requires 98% less water than making jeans from new cotton.
- The company has already raised $1.2 million of its $3 million funding goal and is working to sign other deals soon. They see themselves as becoming an "R&D extension" for retailers.
Textiles are a small but significant part of the waste stream where companies have been seeing lots of opportunity lately. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that while textiles account for more than 5% of the municipal solid waste, only 15% of this material is being diverted for recycling. This means the average American sends 70 pounds of textiles to landfills or waste-to-energy facilities each year.
Levi Strauss & Co. has accepted textiles for recycling in all of its stores since last year and provides customers with 20% off one item in exchange. The company aims to have a closed loop recycling to manufacturing system in place by 2020. H&M offered a similar discount to customers for bringing in their old textiles during its widely publicized "World Recycling Week" event last month.
While processing technology and markets are evolving, collection is still a challenge in many areas. Textile waste isn't well-suited for curbside collection because it's easily contaminated and residents don't usually generate it on a regular schedule. New York has had success by providing special bins to apartment buildings and offering drop-off service at farmers markets through its re-FashioNYC program. In Canada, the city of Markham recently teamed up with Salvation Army to provide drop-off bins throughout the city with the goal of 100% diversion.