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What Does 'The Race To Zero Waste' Mean?

In this bright and shiny world full of sustainable products everywhere we turn, the word ‘climate positive’ has now become the latest buzzword, convincing shoppers that products actually had a positive impact on the people and the planet during its production. But climate positivity is a very elusive idea that would be extremely challenging to pull off due to the fact that everything we make has some sort of impact. So, if we can’t have a positive impact, it only makes logical sense that we start aiming for as little of an impact as possible, which is why big brands are investing in circularity to eliminate waste. But what does ‘the race to zero waste’ really entail?

Circularity does not necessarily mean sustainability. But, in my opinion, circularity should mean using the best material inputs leaving the least amount of negative outputs, while having the logistics in place for the next stages of life for all original inputs and outputs. Not the most elegant sounding explanation, but circularity really boils down to keeping everything in use forever and ever. However, even if every piece of material finds a second, third, fourth, and fifth life, the ‘race to zero waste’ must also include the overall impact aka emissions of your product. The ultimate goal of zero waste is to beat climate change and therefore, we must look at the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions created in our race to zero waste, as well. So how are brands trying to tackle this ‘race to zero waste’ ?


Levi’s has maintained their legacy by heavily investing in R&D, which has given them success in being one of the first brands to experiment and successfully use Circulose, a chemically recycled cotton fiber allowing them to turn unwanted clothing into brand new high quality fiber, to reducetheir reliance on virgin materials and better understand how to create new product out of old product, while still ensuring comfort and style. They also combined the recycled circulose fibers with hemp to try to reduce their impact at the fiber cultivation stage with the wide evidence of hemp’s carbon sequestration properties. This is an example of what I mean when I say looking at the inputs and outputs, while thinking about the associated emissions.


Mud Jeans is also a brand who has, from the beginning, invested in doing the right thing while trying to close the loop. Their Lease A Jeans program was extremely creative in trying to keep jeans in use as long as possible and guaranteeing a second life for them, since every pair sent back to Mud Jeans is recycled at their partner Tejidos Royo. However, Mud Jeans does still make use of stretch fibers including some styles that have up to 2% elastane in them. 2% is the max amount of stretch content allowed for recycling, and Mud Jeans always stays within these parameters to ensure the circularity of their products.


Now, I do prefer rigid denim due to the fact no synthetic fibers are generally needed to make a durable classic jean, but stretch has become a very importantdevelopment in our modern society. Stretch generally means spandex and polyester and you know how I feel about petroleum based products. It’s a no from me. When jeans with mixed content are being recycled, the elastane gets sorted out by machines and becomes waste. But, rather than saying no to stretch denim all together because that’s not realistic, I would love to see more bio-based stretch fibers on the market, like Coreva stretch, to ensure that the little bit of waste from recycling denim with 2% stretch is biodegradable rather than becoming a part of our Earth forever. If you aren’t able to opt for 100% rigid denim, look to the Coreva stretch alternative from Candiani Denim that utilizes natural rubber wrapped in an organic cotton meaning it’s not only a bio-based stretch option, but you have dreamy organic cotton on your skin. From our little digression to stretch fiber alternatives, you can see that the ‘race to zero waste’ includes more than meets the eye. Keeping material items out of the landfill and in circulation is a major priority, but we must not forget that implementing a new resale or rental platform is not the end solution. We must continue to try new models and processes to see what works best. With more information at hand, the better the decision we can make. So let’s keep on fighting in the ‘race to zero waste’ and until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT!

This article is published earlier by Simplysuzette.com and written by Ani Wells.


Ani Wells is the Director and Founder of Simply Suzette, and Sustainable Denim and Communications Specialist. Simply Suzette is an online platform aiming to bridge the gap between the industry and consumers through education and sustainable storytelling.