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  • Writer's pictureSuri

Carrying Sustainability: Unveiling the Beauty of Recycled Cotton Fabric

Updated: Feb 12

At Earthworks, we're dedicated to minimizing our carbon footprint by sourcing sustainable raw materials. While standard virgin cotton fabric is biodegradable, its production significantly impacts biodiversity due to pesticide, cotton cultivation is also responsible for about 11% of global pesticide consumption. Even organic cotton, though chemical-free, still demands substantial water usage. Approximately 2.6% of global water use can be attributed to the production of cotton. We're constantly exploring eco-friendly alternatives to reduce environmental harm.

As we transition to recycled cotton, we're informing customers to promote a greener future. It is our Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to lead in sustainability and educate on the benefits of recycled products, encouraging carbon footprint reduction.

What is Recycled Cotton?

Recycled fabric, also known as eco-friendly or sustainable fabric, refers to textiles that are made from recycled materials. Instead of using newly produced raw materials, recycled fabrics are created by repurposing and reprocessing discarded or used materials such as plastic bottles, old clothing, or other textile waste.



How is Recycled Cotton made?

Cotton can be re-cycled using mechanical & chemical process, however we use only mechanically recycled cotton, as in the chemical recycling process, the fabrics's chemical properties are broken down through chemical reaction processes such as Lyocell process and dissolution in ionic liquids. Hence it is used for non-commercial purposes.



SOURCING: The raw materials for this fabric come from two main sources: post-consumer and industrial. The post-consumer cotton comes from includes garments, upholstery, towels, household items and Industrial or pre-consumer cotton comes from yarn and fabric by-products (cuttings, etc).


SORTING: This stage is labor-intensive due to the extensive categorization required up to 350 subcategories exist for reusable textiles. Each textile's coating and finishing are considered during manual sorting, making pre-consumer cotton waste preferable for recycled cotton fabric production.

 

MECHANICAL RECYCLING: Textile fabric is shredded into fibers, suitable for subsequent processing. A Garnett machine facilitates this process by utilizing rollers and cylinders with metal pins to open up the textile structure and release the fibers. Recycled cotton is often blended with carrier fibers such as virgin or organic cotton or polyester to enhance the quality of the output.


FABRIC PRODUCTION: The shredded fibers are spun into yarns of various thicknesses, which are then woven into fabric similar to conventional cotton production. Recycled cotton fabric typically retains shades of grey due to the variety of colors present in the shredded fibers. These fabrics are then utilized in the manufacturing of commercial products like our bags.


Benefits of recycled cotton:
  • Recycling diverts a significant amount of clothing wastes from landfills, helping to mitigate waste. Annually, textile waste is estimated to reach 25 billion pounds according to the Council for Textile Recycling.

  • Reduced energy, water, and dye usage compared to manufacturing new materials, resulting in savings by utilizing already processed products.

  • Partial offset of CO2 and fossil fuel emissions through the use of existing materials, although the collection, processing, and transportation of cotton scraps or clothing may diminish some of these savings.

 

Challenges:

  • Recycled yarn costs are typically higher than those of standard, virgin cotton yarn, potentially rendering them cost-prohibitive.

  • Increased risk of contamination by other fibers in recycled cotton, including stitching, sewing thread, and small amounts of spandex, necessitating careful consideration in establishing the recycled supply chain.

  • Variations in shades of grey within each batch of fabric make it difficult to maintain consistency, posing challenges for brand uniformity among companies opting for this fabric.



However, the benefits outweigh the challenges for us, as we utilize recycled materials to craft bags, minimizing direct skin contact. Through our experience, we've observed that recycled canvas bags exhibit greater durability compared to virgin cotton bags. Embracing the unique multi-shade characteristics of recycled fabric, we enhance their appeal with contrasting print designs. We firmly believe that promoting the use of this fabric not only reduces tons of clothing waste destined for landfills but also contributes to a more sustainable future. Our standard designs of bags, backpacks & pouches now have an extra GREEN glow , to know more about our new range, give us a call !



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