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The circular economy

– 21st of February 2020 –

Stop wasting stuff

In a linear economy we take resources, make products and throw them away when we don’t need them anymore. Not only is our planet getting trashed but we are using more materials than our planet can regenerate in a year – Keyword: Earth Overshoot Day.   In the circular economy waste does not exist. Products are used for as long as possible until they are reused or fully recycled, keeping resources in a closed loop. It’s all about preventing the use of new resources.

Every second a truck full of textiles is being trashed

Circle economy states that the world is now only 8.6% circular. Of all the minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass just 8.6% are cycled back in 2020, compared to 9.1% in 2018.*1 – speaking of progress. Zooming in on the fashion industry doesn’t make the numbers better. As our planet is moving towards 10 billion people in 2050, the middle-class is growing across the globe and the rise of consumerism led to a 50% increase in clothing production over the last 15 years. This, while the lifetime of clothing has shortened by almost 40%, mainly due to fast fashion. Out of all resources used in textile production, less than 1% of the materials are recycled into new clothing, which means we’re burying and burning $ 100 billion worth of materials each year. *2 All of this amounts to some serious climate impact. The total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production currently stand at 1.2 billion tonnes annually. That’s more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. In one word: crazy. *2 If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry could use more than 26% of the carbon budget,  warns Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Carbon budgets are a way to measure the additional emissions that can enter the atmosphere, if the world wishes to limit global warming to 2C.

Fashion without waste

In a circular system all those numbers would move closer to zero, but what would this look like in practice, by the example of a jeans (because we love jeans)? Renewable resources - Most parts of the CO2 emissions would be scrapped by using renewable energy sources and a healthier city-nature balance, adding more trees to our environment. Recycled materials - In a circular system a product consists entirely of secondary (recycled) materials. A jeans would be fully made of post-consumer recycled cotton, rivets made of recycled stainless-steel and cellulose stitching yarn and branding that is either cellulose or recycled. In order to guarantee recyclability of a product the materials need to stay as pure as possible (mono material). So, if you shop for your next favourite item and read 30% recycled nylon + 70% cotton, don’t get too excited, mixing those materials makes the garment unusable for a circular system. As soon as the percentage of synthetic materials exceeds 4%, recycling becomes difficult. If the recycled content however is mixed with virgin material of the same type, the recycling loop can continue. Currently there are projects such as Worn Again  working on separation, but in the end it’s an extra step, which means less efficient. Innovative techniques - Along the production innovative techniques will guarantee resource efficiency using closed loop water recycling and filtration techniques such as reverse osmosis. Using Indigo Dye efficiently through a foam dying method and reusing it over and over again. Products as a service - Brands will take full responsibility of their products, seeing them as a raw material bank, made of resources they can harvest for future production of new, circular products. Instead of owning goods consumers will only use them, until they are ready to be recycled again. High quality - In order to extend a products’ lifespan for as long as possible, companies would work hard for high quality. Simply because an extended lifetime, through a repair and reuse phase, is more cost efficient than the more energy consuming recycling process.

What makes MUD Jeans circular

For us there is no such thing as waste, our old jeans are used as a resource for new jeans. Design for recycling - choosing the right materials, namely the purest materials possible; our buttons and rivets are mono-material, we don’t use leather labels, no toxic chemicals, no polyester. Innovative techniques - applying innovative techniques in order to minimize the environmental impact and making recycling easier. Find out about them here. Lease A Jeans -  our jeans can be leased, meaning, we as MUD Jeans stay the owner of the raw materials and make sure they come back to us after use. When leasing a jeans we offer a free repair service. Listen to a podcast about Lease with our CEO here.

Introducing you to some circular leaders

Who is Ellen MacArthur? The foundation came up with the three principles: 1) Design out waste and pollution, 2) Keep products and materials in use 3) Regenerate natural systems. *3 They are also our favorite source of quality facts. Who is Circle Economy? They are the Dutch organization guiding brands towards circular business models. That while the aim is that in 2050 nobody talks about the circular economy; it’s just the economy. *4 Who is Thomas Rau? According to Thomas every building is a material depot, and waste is material without an identity. If all material data is recorded in a material passport, then the materials can be recovered during the renovation. He just built the new Triodos Bank building, with 156,312 screws. *5

Power to the people

37% of the environmental impact behind fashion is allocated to the use-phase of the garment. *6 Your decisions matter, casting a vote for the world you want to live in with every action and purchase. Here are some simple tricks on how to support a circular system: Buy less - If you don’t need it. Don’t buy it. Lease or rent -  If possible lease or rent. Natural materials - Materials determine how well a garment can be recycled and re-used, the quality of the garment and how long it will last. Check the labels, go for natural fibres like: Cotton, Linnen, Hemp, Tencel, Bamboo or cutting edge materials like Pinatex. Make sure they’re sourced organically. Recycled materials - The ultimate circular item is made of recycled materials. When checking the label for the big R word remember to look out for mono-materials. Go for quality Circularity is about minimizing waste. The higher the quality the longer you can use your clothing. How to determine quality? Feel the clothing. Trust your tactile instincts, they can tell you a lot. It should feel soft, well woven, and substantial. A quick trick is also to turn the garment inside out and see if the seams have been done properly. Swap - Freshen up your wardrobe by organizing a swap. It is the best opportunity for someone to fall in love with the garment you are bored with and vice versa. Vintage - Second hand is better than new. Repair - A good pair of jeans should last for decades if you look after them carefully. Are you handy with a needle? Repair your torn jeans yourself. Have you leased a jeans at MUD Jeans? Let us repair them for you. Wash intelligently - Consumer behavior and use also has an environmental footprint due to the water, energy and chemicals used in washing, tumble drying and ironing, as well as to micro plastics shed into the environment. Along with the environmental impact, washing also determines the life of a garment. The better you take care of it, the longer you can use it. Learn more about washing here These short tips hopefully empower you to make choices that allow you to form part of the circular fashion movement. In the meantime we’re working towards our 2020 ambition: A jeans made of 100% post-consumer recycled denim. Stay tuned for our progress https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi2yy76f6wo

Our Sources

1. https://www.circle-economy.com/#secondSlide| 2 A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future(Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). | 3 https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org| 4 https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/| 5 https://www.fastcompany.com/90434358/this-office-was-built-with-165312-screws-so-it-can-be-disassembled-and-reused| 6 https://www.circle-economy.com/#firstSlide| 7 https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/circulaire-economie/nederland-circulair-in-2050| 8 http://globalfashionagenda.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Pulse-of-the-Fashion-Industry_2017.pdf
Jody Hollander