The jeans that don’t meet quality standards like shade, improper stitching, irregular cuts are called second-quality jeans. These types of jeans are usually sold for discount prices or just thrown away.
A Sweden-based global leader in sustainable fashion, Nudie Jeans, is finding ways to utilize these second-quality jeans while maintaining the highest quality of its products, and reducing the environmental impact of the production process.
Nudie Jeans environmental manager, Eliina Brinkberg said that to improve their environmental footprint, they are constantly exploring new ways at Nudie Jeans. They need to work with multiple methods to decrease resource use in the production of their products. One of those methods is using post-industrial waste as recycled input to new denim fabric. He added that sustainability is a profound change for a better future and is no longer a trend.
For over half of Nudie Jeans’ production value, 2 companies in Tunisia are responsible. As part of the European Union-funded SwitchMed project, Nudie Jeans has been working with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
To test the feasibility of recycling second-quality jeans into the fabric for new jeans, a two-phase pilot project began in December 2020 in Tunisia.
Talking about the first phase which will be completed by May 2021, Brinkberg said that to create 20,000 meters of new fabric, around 8,000 pairs of second-choice jeans are being used, together with virgin denim fabric. Around 15,000 pairs of new jeans will be created from the new fabric. In assessing the feasibility of recycling second-quality jeans into fibers for new denim fabric at scale, the data from this initiative will help UNIDO.
Developing an upcycling and remanufacturing scheme with local designers in Tunisia will be the focus of the second phase which will explore the possibilities for recycling post-industrial cutting waste from jeans production.
Chief Technical Advisor at UNIDO, Dr. Roberta De Palma said that the current production system for fashion goods creates a significant pressure on valuable resources, such as water as they use high volumes of virgin fibres.
According to the United Nations, to make one single pair of jeans starting from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store, approximately 10,000 litres of water are required. De Palma said that to support the development of recycling infrastructure in the production countries and to reduce this dependency, exploring various ways for recycling post-industrial textile waste will help.
In Tunisia, although water scarcity is not a big challenge, the problem of climate change, combined with rapid urbanization is resulting in more severe problems. Nudie Jeans and UNIDO are hoping that their project will show a way to reduce the pressure of demands from industry and agriculture.
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