We are investigating in ways to reuse the materials from our products, with the aim of feeding them back into the life-cycle of a new product.
Recycled materials mainly come from one of two sources, pre-consumer production waste and post-consumer waste. Production waste includes things like cutting scraps or leftover fabric that was never made into a garment. Post-consumer waste has been through a first life as a consumer product already. We are working to incorporate both streams into our circular fashion strategy.
Target: By 2020, Esprit will produce at least 150,000 pieces of garments including at least 20% recycled post-consumer textile fibres.
Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Pre-consumer production scraps
To avoid sending cutting scraps from production to landfill, we started a pilot with one of our fabric suppliers. Cutting scraps made from 100% cotton are recycled and spun into new yarn that is used again for our products.
We also have an ongoing program for selected denim garments which are made from recycled denim scraps, demonstrating a positive step forward in our efforts to close the loop in our production cycle.
Post-consumer textile waste
We are working to facilitate recycling of post-consumer waste by expanding our garment collection programs, and by intentionally incorporating recycled post-consumer fibers into our products.
Read more about how we work together with our customers to collect garments at the end of their life and to eventually in the near future lead them to recycling.
In general, there are two methods for recycling materials; chemical recycling and mechanical recycling. However, different processes are required for different fibers. Until now, a major challenge related to recycling has been separating any blended materials so that the proper recycling process could be applied to each type of material. Following intensive research by several innovative companies, there have been breakthroughs that are enabling blended materials to be recycled. We are monitoring these developments and we are optimistic that this technology will be available at scale in the near future.
Difference between chemical and mechanical recycling
- Chemical recycling involves breaking a material down to its chemical components, and then repolymerizing (reassembling) them.
- Where a material includes a blend of two or more different fiber types, the first step of chemical recycling is to separate the different fibers into single components or single fibers that can be re-spun.
- The chemical recycling of synthetics is possible, but still in the early phases of commercialization. Under optimal circumstances, chemically recycled polyester can achieve a level of quality that is identical to virgin polyester; in theory, chemical recycling of polyester can be conducted repeatedly without a loss in quality.
- Chemical recycling of fibers such as cotton and viscose can also be done, resulting in cellulose that can then be (re)spun into materials such as viscose, modal, or lyocell.
- Chemical recycling tends to have a larger environmental impact than mechanical recycling, as it tends to require more energy, more chemicals, and potentially more water.
- Mechanical recycling relies on cutting/shredding material into small pieces, or melting it for materials such as polyester, and then re-spinning it.
- Mechanically recycled natural fibers, such as cotton, will lose strength and quality since yarn will be spun with shorter fibers. Often, these yarns will be blended with either virgin materials or synthetic materials to increase their strength and durability; blending improves these properties, but blends including mechanically recycled fibers will not achieve the same level of performance that virgin fibers will.
- Mechanically recycled synthetics will also not have quite the same quality as virgin or chemically recycled fibers since tiny impurities can be incorporated into the new fibers.