The Blue Jeans Go Green initiative, which launched in 2006, lets consumers bring denim clothing—from any brand and in any condition—to dedicated recycling bins at partner retailers. Levi’s will the program at its mainline and outlet stores in the United States and Canada. In exchange, consumers will receive a 20 percent discount off an in-store purchase. Levi’s joins other stores like Madewell and Rag + Bone for the project, which will expand as Levi’s continues to open store locations.
“For more than 150 years, we have made products that are built to last,” said Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., in a statement. “Extending the life of denim through recycling or repurposing is crucial to building a more sustainable business and driving toward a more circular economy.”
The initiative, Kobori said, is a key feature for the strategy Levi’s has to hit its sustainability benchmarks. The company hopes to hit major goals around climate impact, chemical applications, and water usage, and alter its sourcing, design and manufacturing processes to plan for future circularity.
Levi’s also offers consumers several opportunities to extend the life of their denim, in whatever way they can. The brand’s Authorized Vintage line refashions archive-quality denim for resale in select stores, and at in-store tailor shops Levi’s professionals can repair used garments that might otherwise be wasted. Now, items that are beyond repair will be able to be converted into yet another product, rather than going into landfills like many post-consumer apparel pieces.
According to Cotton Incorporated, any type of denim, including scraps or non-jean items like jackets, is eligible for recycling. Blends are, too—though the fabric does need to contain at least 90 percent cotton.
To date, the Blue Jeans Go Green program has recycled more than 2.5 million pieces of denim, to create almost 5 million square feet of insulation, according to a statement from Cotton Incorporated. The denim insulation developed through the program isn’t for sale, but given to charity partners for use in schools and libraries, as well as in housing built by Habitat for Humanity affiliates. Bonded Logic, UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation’s manufacturer, said the insulation contains 80 percent post-consumer recycled natural fibers. It’s just as effective as traditional insulation, since it utilizes cotton’s natural sound-absorbing and thermal-preservation qualities.
Kobori hopes that consumers respond in force to the announcement, and mobilize to take advantage of the recycling opportunity.
“We hope [consumers] tell their friends to help spread awareness of the disastrous consequences of textile waste and the growing number of options denim owners have to make sure their used garments don’t go the same direction,” Kobori said. “And we hope this is just one small part of a much broader conversation between brands and consumers that will help us all work more sustainability and drive towards a far more circular approach to both product development and commercial consumption.”