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Jan Lee headshot

Levi's Waste<Less Collection: A New Home for Recycled Plastic

Words by Jan Lee

Figuring out what to do with all those polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic bottles that we generate on a daily basis seems like an insurmountable challenge these days. Just about everywhere you look, plastic has become an intrinsic part of our culture. The bottle of water you swig as you wrap up your morning run, the soda your child buys after school, and the cooking oil you use to make your favorite salad dressing have, in the past, had a single-designated purpose: as a durable, easily transportable container for liquids.

But thanks to manufacturers like Levi’s, that single-stream usage approach is quickly changing. Last year, Levi’s launched its Waste<Less Collection, focused on reusing post-consumer waste from PET bottles and food trays. Their first jean products incorporated a modest 20 percent of post-consumer recycled materials. With the success of the project, the uses for this content quickly ballooned. By the end of 2013, Levi’s found a second use for 7.9 million bottles, which were incorporated into its Trucker Jackets, Skinny Jeans and Boyfriend Skinny Jeans.

Last week, the company announced that it had reached an all-time high: More than 9.4 million recycled bottles have been repurposed. The end result is more than 1 million Waste<Less products have been created from the project. Of course, denim is still an integral part of Levi’s products. But the use of recycled plastic has helped to not only cut down on the demand for cotton, but also extend the durability of the clothing.

In April 2014, Levi’s announced what many may feel is a signature creation: the Parachute-Trucker Jacket. It’s exactly as it sounds: a lightweight, comfortably fitting jacket repurposed from the same durable material that U.S. military parachutes are made from. If there’s anything that the military usually knows how to source it’s durable materials, and Levi’s reuse of these materials offers both consumers and the environment another answer to the age-old challenge of how to keep plastic out of our landfills.

For a glimpse at how Levi's Waste<Less Jeans are made, check out the video below.


If you’d like to learn more about the fashion industry’s innovative sustainability efforts, see our special series on Sustainable Apparel. And don’t miss my upcoming blog post on innovative reuse of recycled fibers, which will be posted in the second or third week of May.

Image courtesy of Levi's

Jan Lee headshotJan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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