Friday 20 May 2016

Do It Clean

The uncomfortable truth about the clothing industry is that it's the second most polluting sector on the planet. Only oil is worse. That's a depressing thought, but we should view it as a challenge. What can we do to lower the cost and ease the load that every garment we make takes on the planet?

A Californian company called Nomadix thinks it has an answer. Already known for making beach towels from completely recycled materials, Nomadix is now setting its sights on one of the most ubiquitous items of clothing there is: the t-shirt.

The Clean Tee is a concept with a very simple notion, and some very serious science at its heart. Nomadix has teamed up with Spanish company Recover Textiles to produce the garment, using a clever blend of fibres. It's made by re-blending cotton from used clothing and textile waste to create new yarn. That's then combined with recycled poly from plastic bottles, turned into fabric, and sewn into a T-shirt.

So what are the benefits? Let's do some maths. In the course of its manufacture, the average cotton t-shirt will use 9.5 oz. of toxic waste, 2.5 oz. of pesticides and a horrifying 700-1000 gallons of water. That's 7-10 bathtubs full, for a single garment. By comparison, Nomadix's shirt uses no toxins or pesticides, and a mere 8 gallons of water. That's a 99% drop in use. Imagine that sort of saving ramped up to industrial scale, and the advantages that the Clean Tee offers become obvious.

Nomadix are not claiming that the Clean Tee is going to solve all the problems associated with the fashion industry overnight. In fact, they don't even have a viable product as yet. So far, the Clean Tee is running as a Kickstarter campaign, which can only supply a limited number of finished garments. What we're really looking at here is a proof of concept.

But if that concept is sound (and there's no reason to assume otherwise) then the processes behind the Clean Tee can be taken by bigger players and rescaled. It's known that many big clothing manufacturers are looking out for just these sorts of technologies to help lighten their environmental load, as they see the impact that climate change is having on their acquisition of raw material and the damage extreme weather events can have on their infrastructure.

Let's put it like this: it's in everyone's interests for the Clean Tee to succeed. How important can a simple t-shirt be? Well, it might just be the first drop in a flood of innovation that could save the planet.

If you'd like to know more, or snag your own Clean Tee, head over to Nomadix's Kickstarter page:

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