The key to sustainable fashion lies in simplifying materials and design.
An innovative new kids' jacket has launched this week. Designed by Finnish company Reima, the wind- and rain-proof Voyager jacket is described as 'fully recyclable' because it is made from a single material – polyester – that need not be separated from other materials in order to be properly recycled. This also makes it more valuable to recyclers.
Reima explains, "We only have to remove the metal snaps and zipper lock and recycle it as metal waste. All the rest is polyester and can be regenerated into polymers for new products." The goal is for most of it to go into Reima's own outerwear products, with surplus being converted to composite textile material. This is different from conventional textile recycling, when mixed materials are torn and shredded into tiny bits of yarn and fiber and used mainly for insulation or cushioning.Furthermore, the jacket is embedded with an ID number that the buyer can register online. Each registration results in a ten-euro donation from Reima to the John Nurminen Foundation to remove 40 kilograms of algae from the Baltic Sea. The ID number is transferable, so that subsequent owners of the jacket can register it as well, allowing Reima to see where the jacket is.
When the time comes to recycle, the jacket must be returned to Reima for recycling. The company explains that the actual process is still being developed.
"We’re developing the recycling process together with partners in and as part of Finland’s largest project and network on circular textile economy, called Telaketju. We’re currently planning the first recycling pilot with selected project partners, which can then be carried out when enough jackets are returned to us."
Exactly when these jackets will come back is still unknown. In my experience, kids' wind and rain jackets last for a long time, especially if they're made from thick plastic. My kids use rain jackets that are still going strong after 10+ years, handed down through several families of multiple children. I wouldn't be surprised if the thick Reima jackets last 15-20 years, considering how little (and how lightly) kids play outside these days. When I reached out to Reima, a spokesman said he expects the jackets to be used by many kids for many years, and that the company once had a customer send in a jacket after 41 years of use, so they're no strangers to longevity.
How would this delay affect the recycling technology they're working so hard to develop? "As we are closely following the recycling technologies, we are confident that the future technologies will be even more versatile and Voyager will continue to be able to be recycled given its mono-material makeup." Nor would Reima recycle jackets that had been sent back prematurely. The company said it will resell products still in wearable condition on a platform called Emmy, Finland's largest online store for secondhand apparel, before deciding to melt them down.
So it could be a while before Reima's jackets are recycled into anything else, but the mono-material idea remains an excellent one and is something I'd like to see more of in the fashion industry. When the Ellen MacArthur Foundation released guidelines last year on how to make denim more sustainable, it included suggestions such as reducing mixed materials, i.e. stretchy spandex, and eliminating metal rivets, so Reima is doing smart design work and is worth supporting for that reason alone.
You can now order a jacket online. It comes in sizes 4T to 14Y, in navy blue or pink, and costs US$149.