Levi’s Recycled Jeans Will Never Go to Waste

Recycling old jeans into new jeans.

Aug 7, 2020

Levi’s, the first manufactures of blue jeans, has created their most sustainable jeans ever using a revolutionary process that recycles old garments to create new high-quality ones. So, when you wear a new pair of the brand's 502 jeans, you will be wearing old Levi’s too.

For the last few years, the brand has been leading multiple innovative initiatives towards healthier fashion by educating consumers on how to extend their clothes’ lifespan and best preserve them, offering a collection of vintage pre-owned and restored items, recycled, and collecting used clothing worldwide, just to mention a few.

But now the brand has gone a step further aiming to a future where their garments will be made with 100 percent recyclable materials. Older recycling technology couldn’t be used to make new jeans because the process degraded and weakened the material according to Paul Dillinger, vice president of global product innovation at Levi Strauss and Co. “It often gets used as insulation, because it’s not the same quality fiber that you started with,” he told Fast Company.

In a Levi Strauss and Co. press release, the brand said their new Levi’s® Wellthread™ line jeans are the result of more than five years of research in circular denim design, which are made with organic cotton and Circulose®, a groundbreaking material made partly from old jeans. This cutting-edge textile was developed by Swedish startup Renewcell, whose technology easily dissolves used natural fibers into a biodegradable reusable pulp. 

But there’s more: a special water-saving dye method and waterless finishing practices are used for the denim production as well, which altogether reflects a whole new perspective actively engaged with sustainable values.

According to a Levi’s sustainability report, a typical pair of jeans requires about 2,500 liters of water to be manufactured and expels 32 kg of carbon dioxide. That’s equivalent to 53 seven-minute showers, driving a car 78 miles and watching TV on a plasma screen for 318 hours. It doesn’t have to be.

So, by recycling worn-out clothes instead of producing new ones from virgin sources, the water footprint shrinks along with the footprints of carbon and chemicals according to Fast Company. Not to mention it also prevents tons of fabrics from ending up in landfills or from being burned.

The availability of old worn out jeans is not something the company needs to worry about. Americans throw away over 26 billion pounds of textiles a year and the amount collected for recycling is growing according to Fast Company.

As we look at new regulatory initiatives within the European Union that make it fundamentally illegal to landfill garments, the macroeconomics are now in favor of using discarded garments as a resource,” Dillinger said. “Because it is becoming expensive to try to landfill this stuff. There’s actually tremendous supply that is ready to be activated.”

The fashion industry as a whole is trying to become much more sustainable. In fact, some of the largest global brands are already creating new business models based on the principles of a circular economy so that clothes and textiles don’t end up as waste. And this is why solutions such as recycling are becoming so incredibly important.

But what does the circular economy stand for exactly? Basically, it aims to create supply chains where materials and resources reach their highest use and value, and where products are designed to be more easily recycled and recirculated. This way, business goals are taken into account, but also the environmental and social impacts of production.

The transition towards a circular fashion model is the main fashion challenge of our time and embracing sustainable values is essential not only to meet the new consumer demands, but also to guide innovative solutions that create a sustainable, healthy and promising Fashion Industry for everyone.

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DAIANA BROJT, CONTRIBUTOR
With a love for fashion, technology, self-development, nature and communication, Daiana is a freelance writer. She is the creator of an online community platform dedicated to providing inspiration and information on trends, developments and positive impact initiatives in the world of Sustainable Fashion.