Is recycled cotton good?

Cotton is the most common natural fibre used in the textiles industry. Just check the labels in your wardrobe: 24% of all fibres produced for clothing and textiles globally are cotton, so chances are you’ve got a fair bit of it knocking around. But how much of your wardrobe is made from recycled cotton? And is recycled cotton a good thing?

Here at Rapanui, we use a circular design model. Put simply, it means our customers become our suppliers. When your organic cotton Rapanui product wears out, just scan the code on the care label and send it back to us. We then use that recovered material to make new stuff. We call it Remill.

We know it’s possible to recycle cotton, so why isn’t everyone doing it?

Developing our circular supply chain was physically hard, and it took years to perfect our Remill range. But in a world full of cotton clothing, recycling what we’ve already made is a no brainer. Our Remill technology allows us to do this in ever bigger quantities, meaning we can produce products that we’re proud to say are rubbish.

Here’s why, and how, we do it.

Recycling cotton diverts useful materials from landfill

The equivalent of a dumptruck of textile waste goes to landfill or is burnt every second. Where some people see rubbish, we see opportunity, because so much of that material could, and should, be reused. When we take the waste material at the end, and make new products from it at the start, it changes everything.

- discover our men’s Remill recycled cotton striped tees

It also saves water

Try and imagine the amount of water you’d drink in 900 days, because that’s the equivalent amount of drinking water it takes to make the average cotton t-shirt. We don’t make any of those because we don’t use conventional cotton; our organic cotton needs significantly less water to grow, but it’s still a thirsty crop, which is why ours is grown in fields in the north of India, where the monsoons fill reservoirs that supply almost all the water needed. It takes even less water to produce recycled cotton though, which can only be a good thing in a world where almost two thirds of the population face water scarcity for at least one month every year.

Recycled cotton, but make it plastic-free

Recycled cotton fibres are shorter and thinner than non-recycled ones. This means they need to be blended with something else to make them longer and stronger. Some recycled cotton is blended with polyester; even if that too is recycled, it releases microplastics into our water systems when we wash it. That’s why we don’t use it. We’re plastic-free. So our Remill cotton is made up from 50% recycled organic cotton, and 50% organic cotton. All Remill products are designed to be remade when they wear out too, so they can be recycled again and again.

- Wear your support for recycled cotton on your tee: This T-shirt Is Rubbish

The future of Remill

Right now we're focusing on remaking our own products. It's important to keep the materials stream pure and many other brands use plastic or semi-synthetic materials - even recycled plastic - that shed microplastics into our oceans. Removing that is like taking an egg out of an omelet, whereas our products are made from natural materials in a way that is designed for easy re-manufacturing. We also need to find a way to make it worthwhile for us to do recycling for other brands that don't currently pay for the waste they produce. We are going to do this soon, so watch this space.

Our products are rubbish

As material flows back in ever bigger quantities, we are increasingly blending Remill into our range and making new products from what otherwise would be waste. Products we're proud to say are rubbish. We use natural materials and renewable energy, and we print in real-time; that means we only print what people need, when they need it. It’s what sustainability means to us.

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