We use mechanical recycling on fabrics that can maintain quality after shredding and yarn production.
Mechanical recycling of natural fibers, particularly wool, started out of necessity during the first World War. As the yarn quality improved, mainstream clothing companies began using the technology, which involves physically shredding postindustrial or postconsumer fabrics.
Mechanical recycling is used on fibers that can either maintain quality after shredding or producing the yarn or on feedstocks that do not need de-coloration. For example, plastic bottles can often be shredded mechanically, melted, and re-spun into a polyester yarn while maintaining quality and increasing value. But mechanical recycling can fall short in the quality department for some materials such as cotton —individual fiber length is decreased through shredding and the new yarn is usually of lesser quality. A common solution for this is to add polyester to recycled cotton in order to increase the strength and quality of the yarn.
Mechanical recycling can and should be used when the purity of the waste is high enough that it won’t result in a decrease of the performance or quality of the product significant enough that it’s no longer suitable. With synthetics, Patagonia has been able to use mechanical melting of plastic PET bottles because there is a clean source of postconsumer bottles that result in a high-quality in the recycled finished product.
Where We Are
We use mechanically recycled materials where possible. With natural materials, such as wool or cotton, the fiber degradation limits its application to non-technical products, like t-shirts. Those same limitations don’t apply to all synthetic materials. For example, our GORE-TEX Pro shell products are made with mechanically melted pre-consumer recycled nylon.
Our goal is to use only what we determine to be responsible virgin fibers or recycled fibers. This reinforces our goals of reducing the impact of our raw materials and using more regenerative and non-petroleum based materials.