A quick formula for the most sustainable jean ever goes like this:
Use clean indigo dying with no salts and 70% less chemicals (which means all water can be recycled/reused without any sludge in sight),
Choose washing that doesn’t waste a drop
Air dry to save energy,
Use buttons with recycled materials and no toxic chemicals,
Use recycled materials for labels
Lastly, make the final product 98% recyclable.
With new technology, there is hope for all brands to create a completely circular jean. Some of the new advancements being used today are:
A laser machine can be used to create whiskering, distressing, holes, special designs and more. A computer program dictates the intensity and pattern, taking only a few seconds to complete the design.
These machines create a washing process that requires up to 60 percent less water and less chemicals by using ozone gas to bleach denim.
The laundry machines use less water chemical and heating energy, minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions. It also has much lower water consumption levels than traditional machines.
This is water-free process that eliminate the waste created from traditional dyeing processes. Foam is obtained from an aqueous solution and then spread on a fabric.
Some manufacturing facilities have now developed on-site water recycling facilities, so water from washing denim can be filtered and reused. This process saves millions of litres of water with no change to production output.
Ultimate transparency now looks possible with fibre traceability from FIBRETRACE. Danielle Statham wanted to ensure trust throughout a supply chain and has done so by creating fibres that can be traced in real time. With embedded fibre technology, a product can be scanned at any point in its lifecycle for a full report on it’s contents. Until now, there has been no real way to concretely prove where your fibres or textiles are coming from, but with FIBRETRACE, we are looking at a total supply chain solution.
Circular Economy Solution
There are now companies that are taking cotton waste and turning into new fibres that can be weaved into new sustainable fabrics. Take a look at The New Denim Project, for example. Companies like Re:Newcell have now made chemical recycling a possibility. They are able to turn used cotton and viscose into new biodegradable pulp, which new fibers are extruded from and can continue to be recycled over and over, creating a truly circular economy. This is a very new technology, but I believe it will allow us to close the loop.
Fabric - Refibra, Tencel or bast fibres
Synthetic Fibres - Bast fibres here, as well
Dyes/Chemicals - bio synthetic or bio generated dyes
Colour Fastness - acid derivatives (stearic, palmitic), waxes, caster oil, lanolin and natural resins can be used to ensure the dye stays.
Buttons/Rivets - use safe metals, clever reusing of materials to create new products, or bio materials such as wood.
Washing/Application - digital printing, foam application, or in a nitrogen atmosphere.