This Activewear Never Has to Be Thrown Away

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©. Girlfriend Collective

Send in your Girlfriend Collective leggings, bras, and shorts and the company will upcycle them into new pieces, over and over again.

On average, Americans throw out 82 pounds of clothing every year; that's 11 million tons from the United States alone. All told, the world buys an astonishing 80 billion pieces of clothing each year, according to the fashion documentary The True Cost. Ninety-nine percent of all that clothing ends up in the landfill. Most textiles aren’t biodegradable and will sit in those landfills for centuries.

A linear economy make no sense: Using resources to make something new, using the item, then tossing it in the landfill for a virtual eternity? What could possibly go wrong? The future is in circular economies, where we keep resources in use for as long as possible, then recover and regenerate the products and materials at the end of their service and use them again. It is all about making things that never get thrown away.

Adidas is working on their Futurecraft Loop performance running shoes that can be returned to Adidas, where they will be ground up to make more shoes, again and again. And now sustainable activewear brand Girlfriend Collective is jumping into the circular swing of things with the first circular sourcing apparel platform of its kind in the activewear industry, Recycle. Reuse. ReGirlfriend.

girlfriend Collective

© Girlfriend Collective

The company is already one step ahead of the curve for making their textiles out of plastic bottles; the new program takes it a step further to fight textile waste by collecting old Girlfriend Collective compressive leggings, bra, shorts and upcycling them into new pieces that can be made anew over and over.

The company explains that everything in their products that is polyester is fully recycled, from the zipper to the thread. Once an item arrives at the recycling facility, it is shredded, the polyester is separated from the Spandex, and the polyester is recycled into new Girlfriend clothing. Customers get a $15 store credit for each item they return – and items can be in any condition, all will be accepted.

There is no way to recycle Spandex yet, and the Compressive line looks to be about 20 percent Spandex – so it's not a perfect system yet. But the company says that they are looking for new ways to improve their processes. And given the industry's current rate of recycling, 80 percent is an amazing number.

girlfriend collective

© Girlfriend Collective

“Closing the loop and making your pieces completely renewable is the holy grail for clothing – we believe this is the future,” says Quang Dinh, co-found of Girlfriend Collective. “We want to upcycle water bottles and recycle clothes. We upcycle single-use water bottles into clothing you can reuse and wear for years – now we’re going to be able to recycle that clothing into new clothes.”

Given that we are buying 400 percent more clothing today than we did 20 years ago, the most important thing we can do to fight the fashion industry's devastating pollution problem is to simply purchase less clothing. But if the clothing you buy never has to be thrown away, and can instead be turned into new items again and again – well that's a sensible loop to buy into.

See more at Girlfriend Collective.