Circular economy: a denim case study

How to enter a circular, less wasteful and more environmentally-conscious economy? Get the keys to creating eco-responsible denim with Denim Première Vision’s case study.

 

Denim design

Design in a smarter way

The first step is to conceive a product in the most efficient way possible, via eco-conception. Specifically, the designer has to rethink a garment’s patterns to optimize fabric use, aiming for zero waste.

This is one way the circular economy challenges us to think outside the box, and explore new options and design in a smarter way!

Choose the good fibres

The second step is the choice of fibres and textiles. A major part of creating sustainable denim involves the use of organic and recycled cotton. Let’s take as an example the most relevant recycled cotton today: ECOTEC® cotton. ECOTEC® cotton’s production cycle is totally traceable and made in Italy. It uses 100% pre-dyed leftovers from textile industries, meaning pre-consumer recycling. These leftovers are transformed into yarns suitable for weaving fashion textiles.

ECOTEC® is GRS certified and, according to a Life Cycle Assessment, saves 77% more water compared to conventional cotton production. It has up to a 56% reduction in terms of greenhouse effects, and up to 57% energy savings.

And for greater comfort, elastane is needed of course! ROICA™ by Asahi Kasei is a quite astonishing yarn and is the world first recycled elastane certified as. It’s a premium stretch fibre and more than 50% of its raw materials come from pre-consumer waste. ROICA™ ECO-SMART is certified by GRS and has a Gold level in the Material Health category of Cradle to Cradle.

On top of certifications, this yarn has also been tested and verified by Hohenstein for  its “Environmental compatibility”. In other words, it can degrade in the environment without releasing harmful substances.

fibres for a denim design

© ECOTEC® by Marchi & Fildi


eco-conscious

©ROICA™ by ASAHI KASEI

 

recycled fabrics

©BERTO

Use recycled fabrics

When it comes to fabric, the mills know how to produce smarter. A first example is Berto, which favours recycling. The company is working with a supplier who develops for them a specific yarn composed of recycled materials derived exclusively from their own denim production: growing more and more circular every day! Thanks to this re-generated cotton yarn, they save 65% of the standard amount of water typically used. Then, during the indigo dyeing process, Berto uses a natural and totally biodegradable sizing. Finally, a new special finishing process helps save 85% in terms of water, and 32% In CO2 emissions per meter of fabric with respect to standard finishing methods.

Transparency is a key communication tool that builds trust.
For its part, the Turkish mill Orta has labelled each one of its garments with a unique QR Code. This QR Code provides full transparency in term of the fabric’s manufacturing, so users can monitor and measure the environmental impact of their clothing through their Lyfe Cycle Assessment (LCA).

Find new dyeing possibilities

Because denim can’t do without dyeing, the industry had to find new dyeing solutions. Introducing foam indigo! Whereas traditional rope dyeing of 100 yards of fabric consumes 400 gallons of water, foam indigo consumes just 3.5 gallons. A 99 percent savings that brings with it fewer costs and greater efficiency.

Another example is found at Advance Denim, which is launching a denim fabric created with aniline free indigo dyeing: Archroma Denisol Pure 30, , a new solution to get rid of toxic solvents usually used.

 

Image12

©ARCHROMA

For its part, Italy’s Soko Chimica recently introduced a new washing treatment called Bioclean. Bioclean takes a different approach to a well-known problem. It is based on an innovative range of sustainable products that no longer subjects workers to the dangerous process of spraying oxidizing agents, such as potassium permanganate, to fade denim garments.

Bioclean is applied in a “10 minute machine-wash process”, thus doing away with dangerous contact between chemicals and operators. Thanks to this process, and up to a medium level of indigo discharging, Soko eliminates hazardous oxidizing-agent spray processes for humans and waste chemicals in the environment.

soko chimica

©Soko Chimica

Panama

Label your denim with vegetals

Non-stop research, together with increased demand for PU material, brought Panama Trimmings to wonder if an oil derivative could become a fair vegan good. As a matter of fact, today it is. This new creation is a PU material made of vegetal polyols. Thus, it perfectly embodies a renewable source and opens the way to responsible innovation.

VIRIDIS contains 48% of polyols coming from corn bred to be consumed by livestock or processed into ethanol and its by-products. This corn is not the canned one that people eat.

Just about anything that can be made from a barrel of oil can be made from a bushel of corn and that’s why renewable, environmentally-friendly corn is replacing petrolium products. You will find corn in some form in crayons, house paint, printer ink, antifreeze, bioplastics, clothing and other everyday products.

VIRIDIS biomass exceeds 75%, its corn-derived and cotton content makes it the most  green product among the synthetic fabrics: 48.6 % corn polyoils / 27 % cotton / 24.4 % normal PU

VIRIDIS not only has a green origin due to its ingredients but shows to be sustainable throughout it’s entire life.

Life Cycle Assessment evaluated the environmental impacts associated to VIRIDIS by identifying and quantifying energy and materials used and the waste released into the environment. LCA is an objective and scientific picture that proves VIRIDIS to be much more sustainable than a traditional PU.

Finish it properly

And to complete this creative and sustainable supply chain, let’s focus on finishing. M&J is the first laundry with a measurements system. ‘Start to Measure’ is the very first fact-checker for sustainable change. M&J has used technology to develop an inventive way to collect and gauge resource-consumption data throughout the entire laundry process. This way, everyone can be aware of what they are wearing by checking water consumption, resource consumption, chemicals used and total value-added time per garment. It is a complete and highly-integrated system able to monitor each moment of production.

 

hermes-rivera-265460-unsplash

 

finishing of denim

©HNST

Think about the end of life, and reborn!

Taking the global life cycle of a product into account is crucial in a circular economy. Eco-conception, and a thoughtful choice of materials are key, but taking into consideration a product’s end of life is also an important step. That’s how new brands like HNST are emerging, by using secondary materials and turning them into 1st choice products!

HNST collects old or unworn denims to recycle them and generate enough raw material to make new pairs of recycled jeans. The fibres of the recycled old denims are mixed with Tencel®. The resulting yarns are 50% recycled old denim (cotton) and 50% Tencel®. This is the highest percentage of recycled fibre technically possible to date.

>Learn more about the circular economy here.

>Learn more about certifications here.

To discover the full span of eco-responsible innovations, join us at Denim Première Vision next May 28th and 29th in Milano:

  • Denim PV shows you how to create a fashionable and sustainable denim collection with The Smart Creation Selection, an eco-conscious denim collection created in collaboration with the exhibitors
  • A series of Smart Talks dedicated to “Future and Contemporary Visions for Smart-Tech Denim”, covering everything you ever wanted to know about the circular economy.
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