Levi Strauss could soon be making jeans from post-consumer cotton garment waste

Levi's jeans
© Levi's (used with permission) -- An innovative prototype has been created by Levi's using post-consumer garment cotton waste

With most of cotton's environmental footprint coming from growing, and with textile waste continuing to be a huge problem, this newest innovation by Levi's and Evrnu could be the future of green, closed-loop apparel manufacturing.

The fashion world is slowly but surely turning its focus toward recycling, repurposing, and reusing, which is a wonderful thing. Just last week TreeHugger reported on the Clean Tee campaign, in which old, unwanted textiles are spun into new yarn and turned into fabric to make T-shirts with a near-zero footprint. A few weeks ago there was a story about Levi Strauss partnering with Econyl to incorporate abandoned fishing nets into jeans.

Now yet another innovative partnership has caught our eye. Jeans company Levi Strauss has joined with Evrnu, a textile technology startup from the state of Washington, to create jeans made from post-consumer cotton garment waste. A prototype has been created using five discarded cotton T-shirts. The result is a product that uses 98 percent less water than it takes to make the same from virgin cotton.

process used for Levi's new jeans© Levi's (used with permission)

Cotton’s biggest footprint comes during the growing stage, which uses an estimated 68 percent of total water used in the lifecycle of a pair of jeans. By reusing old material, that wasteful part of production is almost entirely eliminated. (Levi’s also made headlines last year for advising customers not to wash their jeans, in an effort to reduce water usage.)

Paul Dillinger is the head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss. He said in a press release about the prototype:

“By tackling water conservation through new fiber innovation, the apparel industry has the opportunity to significantly reduce its water footprint. As technologies such as Evrnu evolve over time, there will be greater opportunities to accelerate the pace of change towards a closed loop apparel industry.”

The battle against textile waste is ongoing, particularly in a world that treats fashion as disposable. An estimated 13.1 milllions tons of textiles are thrown away annually in the United States alone, and 11 tons of that is not recycled, ending up in landfills. It really is time for a new approach, and it sounds like Levi’s and Evrnu may be on to something really great.

The sales goal for these jeans is end of 2017, although that depends on many factors.

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