Circularity: Putting recycling first

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73% of clothing ends up in landfill or incinerated. If we want our clothes to be good for the planet, we need to do more than simply make them from sustainable resources. We must think about how our clothes will be recycled before we make them.

We have to make our clothing circular. But more than that, our circular clothing must be better than the alternative, so you’ll want to buy it. And then we need to ensure it’s affordable so that everybody can buy it. It’s only then that it starts to make a difference.

That’s why we’ve created our new Rowtor and Longaford jackets that are 98% recycled and designed to be recyclable. They’re 100% waterproof, super lightweight and they won’t break the bank.

It took three years to develop them – here’s why.

How do you make a jacket recyclable?
The key issue is to ensure that every element is made from the same material . This is harder than it looks. Firstly, not enough brands are asking suppliers for mono fibre trims that are made from recycled materials, so it’s hard to find suppliers who make them. Secondly, a jacket will have more than ten different components all of which must be found in the same mono fibre – the jacket material, the inner mesh, the zip, zip slider and zip pull, the thread, the seam tape, the cuff tabs … And if you do have to use a different fibre, it needs to be easy to remove. The simpler you can make recycling, the more likely it is to happen. We’ve used PET because it tends to be more widely used and recycled. And we have only two elements that are made from different materials – our toggles and our cuff tabs. We made sure these were easy to remove so they could be recycled separately.

This means there’s no bamboo in these jackets. You might think that’s odd for a company founded on working with bamboo. But designing these jackets has really highlighted how our true roots lie in sustainability, quality and comfort. That’s always been our priority. And this is how we can bring a high performance, low impact and recyclable jacket to our customers.

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98% recyclable. What about the other 2%?
We really, really wanted to use 100% recycled materials but there were two elements that we just couldn’t source because nobody in the world makes them yet: the Velcro and the aluminium toggles. When we can get hold of recycled Velcro, you can be certain we’ll use it.

Nobody buys a jacket just because it’s recyclable
We wanted these jackets to be high performance. Nobody buys a jacket simply because it’s good for the planet. It has to look good and keep you dry and comfortable. We know that our customers are passionate about the outdoors, so they had to be 100% waterproof. Traditional waterproofing usually uses PFCs which are polluting for marine life. To avoid that, we used a Teflon econ elite waterproof coating. And a waterproof jacket needs to be breathable. Our jackets are known as 10k/10k jackets. The first 10K rating means it would need a 10,000mm cylinder of water over a 1 sq. inch of a piece of fabric for that water to penetrate that fabric. The second 10k relates to the breathability, or how easy it is for sweat and moisture to escape. You need a balance of waterproofing and breathability for the jacket to be comfortable to wear.

It’s not helping the planet if nobody can afford to buy it
We want everyone to be able to afford to buy sustainable clothes. And whilst we accept that the work that goes into jackets like these will make them more expensive, we have focused on keeping the cost down as much as we possibly could.

The work on our circular jacket doesn’t finish when we sell it to you
But the work on making this jacket circular isn’t finished. Because for it to be easily recyclable, we need to have PET recyclers equipped to deal with textiles and there aren’t enough yet. We need sorting centres that are equipped with staff that are trained well to ensure our jacket ends up in the right place. We need consumers who understand how to recycle their jacket so that it is properly managed. To make this work we have to look beyond clothing manufacture and work across the recycling industry to drive change. This is a collaboration across the clothing and recycling industries, with our suppliers and with you, our customer.