Industry standard

How the denim deal is making recycling the new industry standard – Sourcing Journal

From local brands like Scotch & Soda and Kings of Indigo to a list of international factories opening satellite offices, the city of Amsterdam has become a global hub for the denim industry in recent years. And now, with the introduction of the Denim Deal, this is a region that is driving significant changes in the industry.

Last fall, the city of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Economic Board, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the municipalities of Haarlem and Zaanstad, in partnership with denim brands, committed to the Denim Deal, a three-year sustainable denim initiative. The signatories of the agreement commit to a new standard of using at least 5% recycled fibers in all denim products and producing at least 3 million pairs of jeans with a minimum of 20% recycled content post-consumer (PCR). According to James Veenhoff, founder of House of Denim, a foundation that promotes sustainable innovation and co-initiator of the Denim Deal, the idea is to make recycling the new industry standard.

“For a long time, [House of Denim co-founder Mariette Hoitink] and I was intrigued by why post-consumer recycling, with its high potential for water and emissions savings, has never really caught on, ”he said. After a series of related conversations with individuals throughout the denim supply chain, “an idea emerged,” he added. “Everyone seemed to want and believe the same thing, but needed the other steps in the chain to get moving. “

One of the main steps he was referring to was an efficient and scalable textile recycling system. When Dutch textile experts developed Fibersort, an automated sorting machine, Veenhoff said “the game has changed”.

Sorting process
Courtesy

The machine’s ability to sift some 900 kilograms (1,980 pounds) of post-consumer textiles per hour and separate them based on color, fiber and construction is exactly what was needed to initiate a real change. .

“This makes it possible to collaborate between countries ‘producers’ of textiles and countries ‘consumers’ of textiles,” he said. “We can finally come full circle and make our industry linear circular. “

The agreement became reality during a meeting with the Prime Minister and Minister of Infrastructure and Innovation of the Netherlands. To date, 30 denim brands, including Scotch & Soda, Mud Jeans and Kings of Indigo, are part of the deal, and new companies are continually joining.

The city of Amsterdam ensures that the goals are met through a ‘steering committee’ headed by representatives from each part of the denim manufacturing process. Imogen Nulty, director of denim at Scotch & Soda and committee member, described the steps the organizers are taking to ensure the initiative stays on track. The first step is to record each brand’s current figures in terms of recycled cotton. The next step is to get together regularly to share gains and failures along the supply chain and brainstorm potential new projects. At the end of each year, a third party will calculate the total achievements and determine the appropriate next steps.

“We are committed to making a positive impact, which is why we are part of a forward-thinking denim community here in Amsterdam,” she said. “And that community and that spirit is at the heart of the Denim Deal.”

In addition to the requirements of the agreement, Scotch & Soda is committed to pursuing its own ambitious goals. Currently, 41 percent of the brand’s styles contain 20 percent recycled material. By 2024, it aims to increase its offer to 70%. Likewise, Mud Jeans already produces denim made from 20-40% PCR cotton. According to Laura Vicaria, head of corporate social responsibility at Mud Jeans, the goal for 2023 is that 90% of products contain between 20 and 40% of PCR cotton. It is also committed to its Road to 100 initiative, in which it aims to produce a denim fabric made from 100% PCR.

But in the age of greenwashing, how can you be sure that the items they use are really made from recycled materials? It turns out that there is technology for this.

Aware, a plotter and blockchain technology from Dutch company The Movement, can distinguish a faux material from a truly durable fabric with a simple scan. The makers of the tech partnered with the Denim Deal in March 2021 to help drive the initiative and verify that businesses are having real impact.

“Collaborating with international leaders within the denim supply chain to accelerate towards a circular fashion system gives us the opportunity to create even greater impact,” said Koen Warmerdam, Aware Brand Director. “[Our technology can] increase the use of traceable recycled materials, validate environmental impact reduction claims and eliminate greenwashing at the same time.

Scaling up the initiative will largely depend on other governments.

“I believe that [government] involvement is what motivated so many key players to be part of this initiative, ”said Vicaria. “They were proactive in understanding bottleneck issues and very verbal in being there to support us. I believe they will play a key role in driving policy changes. “

The city of Amsterdam actively promotes the project in the media and helps identify partners and grants. It also plans to support the recycling step of the process by collecting old textiles from residents and ensuring that as many people as possible recycle their denim correctly.

“We really believe that as many companies as possible should join and sign the Denim Deal,” Nulty said. “We hope that our collaboration will inspire other entities around the world so that we can have a bigger global impact together. “