In recent years we’ve seen a transformation in the textile and apparel industries. Long gone are the days of waste and excess. We now welcome a more sustainable material when it comes to what we wear and what we have in our homes and offices. If you’re looking for ways to be more sustainable in your design process, it is recommended that you start with recycled cotton. As we advance into greater sustainability, you need more recycled options.
Let’s look into the looking glass of sustainability. Learn what recycling is and why you need it. You’ll also learn the difference between recycling and upcycling. And finally, learn how simply purchasing recycled cotton can make a positive impact on your lifestyle.
What is recycled cotton?
Recycled cotton is close to what every green-minded individual will think about. Yet, it is a bit different since we’re talking about textiles. Recycled cotton is the re-purposed form of material that would otherwise be headed for a landfill. This might mean that it is post-industrial or it could certainly be post-consumer. It’s the scraps and little pieces that didn’t quite make it through cutting the actual product. It could also be textiles that didn’t make it onto the sales floor. Just imagine a factory that is working on cotton dresses. Whatever doesn’t make it onto the dress would normally be thrown away. Those little pieces of scraps pile up and collectively could turn into something useful. Not only that, think about the potential to reduce water and energy by not having to go through the entire process of producing the textile from beginning to end. That’s where recycling cotton begins to be so important.
What is the difference between recycled cotton and upcycled cotton?
While the terms seem similar, recycled cotton and upcycled cotton are two different processes. Recycling cotton would be similar to throwing away paper into the recycling bin. It would go to the nearest recycling center and be reused and made into recycled paper. The same can be said for recycled cotton. You take the scraps of cotton and have it made into recycled cotton for better use, such as cotton towels.
Upcycled cotton is different from recycled cotton. You are taking the material and creating something of better quality all on your own instead of having it remade into something else. A great example of this would be to take an old dress and make it into a tote bag yourself. You are then upcycling your cotton. Here, the makeup of the textile has not been changed, however, its use has. Either way, if you decide to use recycled cotton or upcycled cotton products, you are still making a world of difference by being sustainable. Just keeping in mind sometimes recycled cotton is called upcycled cotton. In any case both are a sustainable choice and up to you!
Why recycled cotton?
As we move forward in the textile industry, we are now seeing more and more apparel and textile industries adopt the practice of using recycled cotton. More companies are now committing themselves to recycled fibers coming from post-industrial and post-consumer textiles. The purpose of all of this is to increase the market for recycled cotton. As more companies are jumping into recycled textiles, we’re seeing a necessary step for action. The loop is now being closed as we see a demand to match the supple in recycled cotton.
We’re now seeing big companies get on board with recycled cotton. Take Levi’s for example. They started the trend by experimenting with blending recycled fibers with long-staple fibers in order to get recycled textiles right. Though, no one else has come up with a large-scale solution for the textile industry, this is a huge improvement that solves the key issue on how to do it right.
Recycled cotton is so important to consumers because of sustainability. Sustainability is spearheading our economy as well as our society for moving forward. Because of this, it is one of the most crucial decisions business owners and society must make to include in order to live a happy future. Key product decisions, brand initiatives, and planning rely on the textile industry. And recycled cotton has peaked the apparel and textile market’s interests in recent years because of this. In turn, the use of recycled cotton is a growing topic for decision makers and continues to be at the top of everyone’s minds.
How does recycling cotton work?
Recycling cotton is much like recycling paper, yet there are a few more complications thrown in as we are working with a textile here. We also often call recycled fabric, “regenerated cotton.” The cotton fabric must be converted into cotton fiber in order to be reused. It starts with the recycling process. Cotton waste is stored by type and colour. Next, it is processed. Stripping machines break the textile and yarns into smaller pieces before pulling them apart. This then turns into fiber. The mix of fiber then gets carded over several times so that they are clean and mixed before spun into new yarns.
Did you know that textile recycling is generated from two sources? That is pre-consumer scraps from cotton clothing, like yarn and other by-products. And then there is post-consumer, which is garments, and other textiles such as towels or household items. Yet, the largest volume of recycled cotton sources is from pre-consumer waste, which is the cutting scraps we’ve touched on a bit earlier in the article. The reason why it’s the largest source is because there are so many scraps if you pile them all up pre-consumer. And also, post-consumer waste is tedious to sort through since you are dealing with many varieties of colour shades. It often requires a lot of labor and more time to sort through.
How do I know recycled cotton will work for me?
There are many reasons why recycled cotton products are a benefit to you. First of all, you are having a hand at sustainability. By being sustainable, you are helping your community and the whole world out by reducing waste. But you are also limiting the energy it takes to produce pre-consumer, non-recycled fabrics, which in itself is a real waste. The truth is, the cost isn’t much more than what you’re paying for non-recycled cotton, so what harm does it really do?
By purchasing recycled cotton products, you are committing yourself to sustainability. You are also helping close the recycled textile and recycled cotton industry’s loop, helping it grow. You are also committing yourself to purchasing recycled cotton products that may not otherwise get the same visibility from a larger brand because there are so many small businesses who are being supported by eco-conscious consumers like yourself. And by doing this, the recycling system is then met with demand for the outputs of recycling. In other words, businesses large and small would not be able to produce recycled cotton products without the help of you.
A promising future
As more and more businesses are stepping up their game by using sustainable fabrics and recycled cotton, we are also seeing more labels for certified organic cotton. Certified organic cotton is said to be grown without fertilisers and pesticides. The practices of certified organic cotton promote biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil health.
Why must cotton be ‘certified organic’?
That’s because cotton is considered to be the dirtiest of crops in the world. In fact, with only covering 2.5% of the world’s land, it actually keeps the insecticide industry in business. It accounts for 24% of the world’s insecticide market. That’s a value of over $2.6 billion. Where do we get organic cotton? Well, from places like China, Turkey, and India. And even though organic cotton is cleaner, we will need to treat cotton with the same amount of energy that we would of regular cotton.
Because there is so much waste in manufactured cotton, businesses are switching up to 100% sustainable apparel. We can then use recycled cotton that results in a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This then leads to a 66% reduction in energy consumption and a 55% reduction in water consumption. If you compare that to a conventionally dyed shirt, you now have reduced energy and have practiced sustainability by supporting these products. Another plus? The scraps do not end up in a landfill like others would. Take Recover products, for instance, as they are making a difference in the world with their products.
Purchasing recycled cotton
There is a large market for recycled cotton. I suggest purchasing from smaller manufacturers, who have your best interests in mind. One great product I recommend are Bambury’s Cabana Towels. They are exclusively made from recycled cotton, giving their products a new life. They are soft, absorbent, and perfect for relaxing days at the beach or pool.
Ladelle also launched a new line of eco range products featuring recycled cotton. Their collection includes aprons, tea towels, and oven mitts. They are also going to be adding to their collection, which you should not miss out on. You can get their first eco-branded collection in natural, grey and Navy recycled cotton.
There is certainly no shortage of eco-friendly products to go around these days. However, knowing how these products are recycled or upcycled is important. You want to know where your recycled cotton comes from and how sustainable it actually is. Knowing these facts about recycled cotton and organic cotton makes a difference in the overall market of recycled products. Now that you know a thing or two about recycled cotton, you can make your future purchases with an informed mind while knowing you are doing good for the world.