We often think about recycling plastic, cardboard and glass, but less so cotton.
The primary choice of fabric for clothing worldwide, cotton production is environmentally intensive, particularly on water supplies. In fact, cotton production can be attributed to the disappearance of nearly a whole sea! Other major issues stemming from cotton production include the use of polluting pesticides and chemicals to protect crops and land clearance.
As global consumption increases, exacerbated by the rise of fast fashion, more and more environments are being irrevocably damaged as a result. It’s clear something has to change.
As consumers, there are a number of approaches that can be taken to reduce the amount of cotton used in our lives. One is simply buying fewer, better quality clothes and cotton products, buying second-hand, or repurposing. Another is buying items made from organic cotton that’s grown without the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides. A third is buying items made from recycled cotton.
Recycled cotton can be generally defined as converting cotton fabric into cotton fibre that can be reused in textile products. This allows the item to find a new purpose as something else, diverting it away from landfills and incinerators.
Where does it come from?
Sources of recycled cotton fall into two main categories:
- Excess material from the production of yarn, fabrics and textile products
- Used garments
- Household items
How is recycled cotton made?
Recycled cotton is collected from industry or consumer waste. Items are first separated by type and colour, then shredded by a machine into smaller pieces and further into crude fibre. It can then be respun back into yarn for reuse and given a new life as another product.
The process of shredding the fabric into its cruder forms is quite stressful. This compromises the quality of the new fibre, making it shorter and harder to spin. Consequently, the new fibres are blended with other virgin materials, such as plastic or cotton, to improve strength and make them suitable for reuse.
Which certificates exist?
Global Recycled Standard (GRS) - international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. The goal of the GRS is to increase the use of Recycled materials in products and reduce/eliminate the harm caused by its production.
Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) is the world’s leading certification standard for organic textiles including both ecological and social criteria. GOTS covers every step in the production process from the fibre to the finished garment.
Is recycled cotton more eco-friendly than organic and conventional cotton?
Whilst organic cotton farming uses no synthetic agricultural chemicals, such as fertilizers or pesticides, and is certainly an improvement over conventional methods, it doesn’t tackle the issue that farming cotton is highly water-intensive and still damages eco-hydrology.
We at A Good Company are advocates of recycled cotton because of the emphasis on circularity and the limited use of virgin materials. Recycling represents a move away from a linear economy (make, use, dispose), to a circular economy in which the raw materials used to produce goods are reused for as long as possible. It’s why we offer a trade-in on our phone cases.
By combining recycled cotton with quality, organic cotton, using the latest in modern dying technology, we’ve developed a range of highly sustainable garments that comprise 70% recycled cotton and 30% virgin organic cotton.