The apparel industry is the second most polluting industry, behind the oil industry. Over the past few weeks, multiple campaigns have launched to raise awareness of the environmental pollution and human rights issues that this industry causes, including the Clean Apparel campaign and Fashion Revolution.
There are better choices than conventional apparel. To prove that apparel can be completely sustainable, high quality, and a staple of your daily life, Nomadix partnered with Recover Textiles to make the Clean Tee. The Clean Tee is the most sustainable T-shirt on the planet, requiring zero pesticides and chemicals to produce, and expelling zero wastewater during its production, which is a devastating polluter in textiles.
To get a deeper understanding of the Recover process, Nomadix interviewed Isaac Nichelson, the Chief Sustainability and Marketing Officer for Hilaturas Ferre, the 100 year old recycling and yarn spinning company from Spain that is behind the Recover Upcycled Textile System.
Nomadix: What are Recover Textiles made from?
Isaac Nichelson: Recover yarns are made from mechanically recycled cotton derived from pattern cutting waste and pre/post consumer garments. Recover Upcycled Cotton fiber is blended with RPET fiber made from post consumer recycled plastic bottles as a carrier fiber to make the softest, finest recycled cotton yarns know to man… also considered the lowest impact yarns available today.
Where do the used clothes and textile waste come from?
Isaac: We “Recover” textile waste from all over the world, through a vast network of collectors set up over the last 70 years. Most of the post consumer garments are coming from the European markets, since the company is located in Spain.
What is the process for cleaning/separating/preparing the textile waste to be spun into yarn?
Isaac: With post consumer garments they are put through industrial laundry after begin sorted as well as possible for composition and color. With pattern cutting waste (15-30% of all the textiles wind up on the floor) this is picked up and sorted after each cutting. We focus on using 100% cotton cutting waste and sorting for color. This way the color and the composition are consistent.
Tell us about the environmental footprint of a garment made from Recover.
Isaac: For example, 1 T-shirt made with Recover yarns saves between 700-1000 gallons of water when compared to a 100% virgin cotton tee. It also eliminates all the application of agrochemicals, and dyestuffsnormally applied. This is because there is no cotton cultivation, no dye processing, and no water used in the recycling or yarn spinning process. Only the final scouring of the finished fabrics requires water, which for a T-shirt amounts to 7-10 gallons at the maximum.
How novel is this technology? Are there comparable methods of upcycling textile waste, or is Recover the only one?
Isaac: There are a few other mechanical cotton recyclers out there, but their production methods yield very short staple fiber, very harsh rough yarns, with very little color control. They are forced to dye the cotton fiber to match colors, and simply cannot hit the fine gauges that Recover does. After four generations of R&D by the Ferre family and over 70 years of recycling and spinning yarns, it’s known industry-wide that Recover is in a totally different league.
Is the Recover factory eco-friendly as well?
Isaac: The factory produces 50% of its own power with Solar Panels, and since it’s in Spain the rest of the energy comes from the world’s largest alternative energy grid. The factory itself is incredibly efficient and clean – no dyestuffs, no water, no problem! The process is third-party certified by the Global Recycled Standard and Oeko-Tex 100. Labor standards are at the highest level and are certified by the UN Global Compact.
If you could give one piece of advice to consumers, what would it be?
Isaac: First of all don’t consider yourself a “consumer”. Think of yourself as a human being capable of making conscious decision about what we must buy to be fed, clothed, housed, and transported around. Every decision we make is either destructive or regenerative to our habitat and ourselves. Look for products that are third party certified organic, recycled, non-GMO, and made as locally to you as possible. Conserve resources every way you can, vote with your dollar by choosing the best and longest lasting products you can, and buck the system that generally wants you to “consume”!
Learn more about Recover Textiles.
Watch the video for the Clean Apparel campaign.