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Why We Choose Quality Over Recycled Cotton?

Why We Choose Quality Over Recycled Cotton?

Sustainability remains a top priority in product decisions, brand initiatives, and strategy for us at The Aaina Khan Label (TAK Label). We consistently research and assess options to enhance our products and reduce our environmental footprint.

What is recycled cotton?

Recycled cotton is a well-known concept in the apparel industry, touted as an eco-friendly choice from a marketing standpoint. Brands and retailers, including us, continually assess their supply chain impact, leading to increased interest in recycled cotton over the last decade.

Why We Choose Quality Over Recycled Cotton?

How does it get recycled?

Recycled cotton involves the process of converting cotton fabric back into reusable cotton fiber for textile products. The largest volume of recycled cotton comes from pre-consumer waste, such as cutting scraps from manufacturing. Sorting through post-consumer waste, like cheap tri-blend tees, is more challenging due to varying colors and fabric blends, making it a labor-intensive process.

Fabric and materials are initially sorted by color, then shredded into yarn and further into raw fiber using machinery. However, this process strains cotton fibers, leading to breakage and entanglement. The raw fiber is then spun back into yarns for reuse in other products.

In the luxury sector, this poses challenges. The fiber length is crucial for high-quality products, which is why Supima® cotton is esteemed. Recycled cotton fibers, being shorter, result in a coarse, dry texture lacking in refinement and strength. Ultimately, recycled fiber quality can't match that of the original fiber, especially in terms of length and uniformity.

Why We Choose Quality Over Recycled Cotton?

The Challenges of Using Recycled Cotton:

Using recycled cotton presents several hurdles for The Aaina Khan Label. Firstly, it must be blended with other fibers to enhance its strength and durability, making continuous recycling unfeasible. Additionally, the composition of recycled cotton varies depending on its end-use, affecting yarn and fabric properties like evenness, strength, and uniformity.

Furthermore, the cost of recycled yarn is generally higher than that of standard, virgin cotton yarn, while its quality remains inferior. Testing instruments designed for ginned, virgin cotton may yield skewed results due to differences in fiber packing and orientation, making accurate representation on labels challenging.

Moreover, the risk of contamination by other fibers is significantly elevated for recycled cotton, necessitating careful consideration of factors like stitching, sewing thread, and small amounts of spandex when establishing the recycled supply chain.

What are the facts?

  • The U.S. EPA estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space.

  • The average consumer bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment half as long. McKinsey (2016). Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula.

  • Across nearly every apparel category, consumers keep clothing items about half as long as they did 15 years ago. McKinsey (2016). Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula.

  • The average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually.

Consumers are purchasing more clothing items, and then disposing of them. This is directly contributing to consumer textile waste. The impact of laundering and disposal has a large impact on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. This includes the number of launderings, which indirectly relates to garment life.

A garment that is well-constructed has a long life and is more likely to have more laundering cycles that would increase the impact reducing waste. Creating textiles with a shorter useful life as a means to decrease impact would not have the desired positive impact on the environment.

Why We Choose Quality Over Recycled Cotton?

A better solution?

Instead of constantly re-using low-grade cotton and dealing with the process of sorting and repurposing to reduce landfill waste, we believe it would be better if brands focused on making quality garments from the beginning. Finding ways to reuse inferior products just creates more industrial and consumer waste. In many ways, it is akin to working on a treatment instead of prevention.

At The Aaina Khan Label, we want to be a part of the solution. We think that avoiding waste starts by creating a better garment from the beginning. One that you will not dispose of, that can withstand wear and tear, and wash after wash. We want your customers to appreciate the garment and go back to it as their favorite piece time and time again.

Virgin extra-long staple cotton like Supima® is naturally a sustainable option. Cotton is a natural and biodegradable fiber. We foster transparency and sustainability within our virgin cotton supply chain and will continue to use the finest cotton available in an effort to focus on quality over quantity. If each of us tried to buy less but higher quality garments, the environmental impact would be substantial.