We’re creating new products out of old plastics.
Plastics in technical clothing offer critical—sometimes life-saving—performance, like weatherproofing and moisture-wicking. That’s why we use plastics in our products.
But we’ve been focused on reducing our reliance on virgin plastics since 1993, when we started making fleece out of recycled plastic bottles—the first outdoor apparel manufacturer to transform trash into clothing. Now, we’re beginning to transition away from those well-established, yet still broken recycled waste streams and think more systematically.
Supporting and scaling secondary waste streams.
We’re investing in new and urgently needed infrastructure that helps create products from plastics that would otherwise be sent to landfills or end up in waterways. These secondary waste streams range from textile waste to ocean-plastic waste and bottle-collection programs from regions without waste management systems in place. And it’s what led to our 2014 investment in Bureo, a California-based company that collects discarded plastic fishing nets that our supply chain partners then turn into NetPlus® material. Through this partnership, we’ve diverted more than 884 tons of nets—waste that was transformed into fabric and used in our hat brims, jackets, shorts and tights.
Turning plastic waste into our own durable, high-quality products is a powerful way to reduce environmental impact, but our goal has always been to develop and strengthen these waste-based supply chains so other brands can use them, too. Given the massive scale of the plastic problem, it’s going to take industry-wide collaboration. We can’t address it alone.
But being an early adopter means digging into the hard, complex work of building new supply chains—ones that aren't yet robust or have a consistent supply. (For perspective, it took about 25 years for plastic bottles to become a widely used secondary waste stream.) Our partnership with Bureo highlighted some of these challenges and affirmed why this work is so important.
In Spring 2021, we first used NetPlus material in seven products and have continued increasing the number of items each season. We believe the proof is in the product, but in this case, the proof was a little more complicated to come by. Our product team works several seasons in advance, which meant we didn’t have time to understand and iron out potential kinks in the new supply chains. At the same time, COVID-19 dramatically impacted our global supply chain, including shipping container shortages, factory shutdowns, permit delays and other challenges. Ultimately, we had to be more selective about which products we make with NetPlus.
We’re also expanding our use of other secondary waste stream supply chains like ECONYL®, a recycled nylon manufactured in Slovenia using old fabric scraps, carpets and other synthetic materials that we incorporate into our Torrentshell 3L products. Our UK-based supply chain partner Coats turns cafeteria trays and other pigmented plastics—which are harder to recycle than clear types—into recycled polyester. We also have new partnerships in the works that will divert more plastic waste from oceans as well as prioritize traceable and socially equitable supply chains.
We believe that each industry should take responsibility for its own waste. Beyond recycling plastic, we’re figuring out new ways to transform material from our own apparel and gear back into like-new fiber that can be used again and again. In other words, make new clothing from old clothing. Most recently, that’s led to working with JEPLAN, a Japan-based recycling company that chemically recycles pre- and postconsumer polyester textiles into virgin-quality clothing.
The future of plastics at Patagonia.
Our goal is to only keep synthetics in the most durable, longest-lasting products so they stay in play for more time—whether it’s in your closet or passed down to a friend’s. That concept of circularity is what prompted us to launch Worn Wear®. It’s created a re-commerce platform for repair, reuse and trading in old gear (both synthetic-based and natural-fiber-based) so we rely less on virgin resources and use more of what’s already been made. By 2025, we intend to make at least half of our synthetic materials using secondary waste streams.