Fashion today moves fast. Very, very fast. So fast in fact, that collectively consumers are buying more than 80 billion new items of clothing every year. That number, according to the film The True Cost is 400% more clothing today than we purchased 20 years ago.
So it comes as no surprise that in order to make room for the new, we are getting rid of the old at a similar pace. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 15 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013. Of that, nearly 13 million tons were sent to either a landfill or incinerator. And just FYI, 11 million of that is coming from just the United States alone.
And while many people see donation centers as a good place to get rid of old clothes, the reality is that only a small portion (approximately 20%) of America’s used clothes are actually being sold at secondhand retail and charity stores. More likely, it is being shipped to developing areas like sub-Saharan Africa, South America and China. In fact, the U.S. exports so much — about 1 billion pounds — that it is our eighth largest export .
But even with that, the vast majority (about 85%) is sent directly to landfill or incineration. And all those clothes that are sent to the landfill? Well, they’re not really going away. Clothes can take up to 40 years to decompose. And don’t even get me started on shoes (up to 1,000 years to break down, BT dubs).
Similar to food waste natural fibers in our clothing, like cotton, linen, silk, etc. produce the potent greenhouse gas methane as they degrade. In addition, all of the bleaches, dyes and other chemicals used to make our garments can potentially leach to our groundwater. If those items get sent to the incinerator, all of those chemicals get released into the air. And if it’s synthetic (i.e. polyester, nylon, acrylic)? Well, it’s essentially a type of plastic, and can actually take hundreds of years or longer to fully biodegrade.
And we continue to throw things away, even though 95% of textiles can actually be recycled. The EPA estimated that the 2.3 million tons of textiles that were recycled in 2013 was the same as taking 1.2 million cars off the road. Just imagine what would happen if we were to recycle more.
Well good news, Evrnu is here to help. Evrnu is using closed-loop technology — where a product is recycled back into almost the same product, attempting to mimic the natural process of life (i.e. a plant grows out of dirt, dies, decomposes back into the dirt where another plant then grows) — to help solve our textile waste problem.
Using their patent-pending technology, the company is creating a regenerative supply of high-quality, bio-based fiber through recycling our cotton garment waste. First, they purify the cotton garment waste by stripping it of dyes and other contaminants. Then it is converted to a pulp, where it is broken down to its elemental fiber molecules. Next, the fibers are recombined and they extrude it as a new fiber that can be engineered to custom specifications, diameters and cross-sectional shapes.
The final product is perfect for the creation of premium textiles, as it is finer than silk, yet stronger than cotton and can boast quality, innovation and sustainability. The company has already won tons of awards and done a collaboration with Levi’s which I may or may not have mentioned before.
So, if you’re like me and can’t wait to see what they do next, you can sign up for updates here.