I was visiting Lenzing’s website, the company that makes the Tencel™ fiber (which we often call Eucalyptus) — if you do not know about Tencel™, it is one of the most sustainable fiber, discover it in this short video — when I found out about something positive and inspiring … Refibra™
I wanted to do another article on the microplastic pollution related to synthetic fiber clothing. But I changed my mind. Even if it’s probably one of the biggest environmental issues we never hear about. On the other hand, it is also a very depressing subject.
I often wonder if it’s better to talk about problems and highlight the negative, or if we should focus on the positive, even if we don’t dive deep into details. I guess it takes a bit of both …
Lenzing uses cotton clothing waste to manufactures this new fiber (Refibra™). It uses the same kind of recipe as Tencel®.
My first reaction on Refibra™
What!!!… When I hard “demand for apparel is expected to double by 2025“. Don’t we have enough (even too much) clothing already?
Are they able to recycle only 100% cotton garments? What about blends? (Ex: 95% cotton, 5% spandex). It would seem, according to this article , that it is actually only 100% cotton.
So, out of these 50 million tons of textile waste per year, what percentage of textile waste is 100% cotton? Cotton accounts for 30% of the world textile fiber market. But what percentage of clothing is 100% cotton (not a blend ex: Polyester 50%, cotton 50%)? According to Cotton Inc., 75% of men’s clothing and 40% of women’s clothing are made entirely of cotton (I have my doubts about these stats, which date back to 2011, but hey, that’s approximate). Assuming there’s half man, half woman … that would be 57.5%…
Thus, approximately 28.75 million tonnes / year (probably a bit less) of garment waste would be eligible to be recycled using Refibra™.
However, this calculation does not include textiles used for other purposes: house furnishing, etc., and uses stats from 2011. But it gives an idea. It’s more than the 10-20% that I originally thought. 🙂
In addition, perhaps the recycling of clothing made with fiber blends could also soon be reality according to this article ?
Then, to make Refibra™, the cotton waste is mixed with other woodchip to complete the cellulosic formula. What percentage of cotton is used and what percentage of woodchip? I have not been able to find this information.
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Update March 9, 2019
According to Patagonia’s website it’s 80% wood and 20% recycled cotton scraps. It’s annoying that this information is so hard to find.
Also, after revisiting REFIBRA™’s website it seems they are using only pre-consumer cotton waste (scraps from cutting table) for now. But they have a long-term goal to also use postconsumer waste (old clothes).
I’m kinda disappointed. I thought old clothes were being recycled now to make this fiber. But still, I can’t wait to see what happens with it in the future.
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This initiative has to get more attention! With only 2656 views (as of January 31, 2018), it is U-N-B-E-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E that this very-easy-to-understand video has not been more watched and shared. So, I encourage you to invite your friends to watch this one. They’ll get a good dose of inspiration! Also, this could a fiber for the circular economy of the future !
Recycling used clothes by dissolving them, it is a step in the right direction ! For a long time, companies have recycled cotton by shreding old clothes to manually make a new fiber, a thread, a fabric and a new garment. But this includes some limitations : shorter fiber, more difficult to spin and clothes that wears faster. Dissolving clothes to make a completely new fiber. This is next-level recycling.
On the same note, we have always been limited in our use of Tencel® at Respecterre. We have to buy large quantities that are sometimes difficult to sell. Recently, it’s with a smile on our face we learned that one of our fabric suppliers, Kendor, would soon offer a good variety of Tencel®-based fabrics blended with organic cotton (see the bottom of the page) !!! This will allow us to buy smaller quantities and offer more choices of color and fabric style. Stay tuned for more Tencel® products at Respecterre in the near future. And in a few years, perhaps some Refibra™ products !
Written by Ugo Dutil :
I grew up in the ecovillage Cite Ecologique. I like this way of life that values human relationships, sustainable development and personal growth. I’ve been working with Respecterre since 2013. Minimalism, #slowfashion and moving towards sustainability, especially in textiles, fascinate me.