By Lisa Marie Chirico
Move over rivets, it’s plastic bottles that make a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans unique now. Iconic brand Levi Strauss and Co. is participating in the effort to drive consumers to think about recycling in a new light with the introduction of their limited-edition Waste<Less jean. The company, who received an overall scientific rating of 7.1 out of 10 from the GoodGuide, chose to partner with the brand initiative “Ekocycle” for this collection. According to their website, the Ekocycle brand initiative, which is led by musician and producer will.i.am and the Coca-Cola Co., is dedicated to supporting a more sustainable environment. In addition, it supports recycling by helping consumers recognize that items they consider waste today, may be a part of a fashionable and valuable lifestyle product, like jeans, that they can use tomorrow.
Purchasing a pair of 501 Waste<Less jeans won’t make the Great Pacific Garbage Patch disappear, but what each pair is manufactured from (29 percent post-consumer recycled content, using an average of eight recycled plastic bottles) is certainly a sustainable step in the right direction. Levi Strauss says it plans to repurpose over 3.5 million recycled PET plastic bottles for the Spring 2013 Waste<Less collection.
Levi Strauss isn’t the first clothing manufacturer to create a new product line from recycled plastic. In 1993, Patagonia became the first outdoor clothing manufacturer to create fleece made from post consumer recycled plastic soda bottles, and the company’s support of recycling via their manufacturing continues. According to Patagonia’s website, the company has saved some 86 million soda bottles from the trash heap over the past thirteen years. Another apparel company who incorporates sustainability throughout their business model is Puma. InCycle is the company’s first 100 percent biodegradable or recyclable clothing, accessory, and footwear collection. Puma’s efforts towards creating InCycle recently earned them Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s product certification.
When it comes to plastic use and its impact on human health and the environment, the various statistics are nothing short of disturbing: plastic takes up to 1000 years to degrade in a landfill; 92 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA; Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour.
Hope truly does spring eternal, and what’s visible on the horizon points to continued progress towards greater use of recycled plastic in the fashion industry. There are innovations such as Bionic Yarn, which uses recycled plastic bottles to manufacture textiles. In addition, companies such 2013 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open 2013 semi-finalist Thread, who creates sustainable jobs for Haitians while they recycle plastic waste, are showing the world how operating a sustainable business can also improve people’s lives.
With sustainable initiatives making their first appearance in luxury brands such as Gucci, and traditional fast fashion leaders such as H&M introducing sustainable lines, consumers have a lot to be hopeful about. Although it remains to be seen how rapidly other well-known apparel brands will create viable sustainability programs, jeans made from recycled plastic bottles are tangible proof that real, enduring change is underway.