Odds are pretty good that you’re wearing some form of cotton clothing right now. We rely on this material to make all manner of products that are comfortable, versatile, and affordable.


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Cotton, however, comes with a pretty major limitation that’s become especially apparent as manufacturers and retailers look for new ways to create and sell more sustainable products.

We may associate cotton with things that are natural, but when it comes to recycling, cotton can be far from eco-friendly. Due mostly to the reduction of workability and quality that’s lost in the clothing recycling process, most cloth manufacturers and fashion can use only a minimum quantity of recycled cotton in their products.

Now, to reduce the impact of creating virgin fabric for production and to prevent used cotton clothing from ending up in landfills, the fashion industry is currently looking for a game-changer in the process of recycling cotton.

A Challenge To Close The Loop
The H&M Conscious Foundation has put out the call for a new and better way to recycle cotton and still produce a high quality end product. Through the Global Change Award contest, applicants will have the opportunity to take part in a $1.15 million prize to be shared among five winners chosen for cotton recycling innovations.

The foundation’s mission with the contest is to “close the loop” on going from used to new in the clothing industry.

The Trouble With Cotton And Quality
Some companies have managed to implement clothing recycling programs that reintroduce old fibers in with new, including Levi’s, but even then only 20% of recycled cotton can be utilized before a garment no longer meets with the company’s quality standards.

Some independent clothing manufacturers have managed to increase that percentage, but only on a small scale. Considering the prevalence of cotton used in modern fashion, a greater increase in usable recycled cotton, processed on a large scale, could make a major difference for sustainability.

Will the Global Change Award contest yield the type of innovation that will make that happen?

Reuse Or Use Longer?
While better recycling methods will no doubt benefit the fashion business and the environment, quality critics have pointed out that clothing made to last longer could also contribute to less waste. Trends in “fast-fashion”, which encourage consumers to buy and discard clothing every few years or seasons, have been criticized as a major contributor to material waste.

In response, some companies are building products that are designed to offer longevity and remain a part of a customer’s wardrobe rather than another item in a landfill.

What are your thoughts on the issue of cotton recyclability and material waste?

Do you have a solution to propose?

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