Mud Jeans wants to help its fellow apparel brands “get a hold” of their extended producer responsibility strategies.
This Thursday, the denim label plans to host a one-off “EPR hotline” where it will provide insight from its years centering circularity. The event comes as the European Commission plans to propose EPR regulations in June and the Netherlands prepares to implement its own EPR policies in July.
Mud, however, has prioritized reverse logistics for years, collecting old jeans and recycling them into new products. In a typical year, the company estimates it receives back between roughly 10,000 and 15,000 pairs of old jeans. In 2021, that total surpassed 11,500.
The self-described “first circular denim brand” also offers free repairs for customers participating in its “Lease a Jeans” concept. Though Mud has not received “large numbers” of repair requests—the service only extends to the first year of a lease—the company views its denim leasing program as one of its “most successful strategies,” corporate social responsibility manager Lea Landsberg said.
“The idea behind offering jeans for lease is to move towards an economy based on experiences rather than possessions,” Landsberg told Rivet. “We want to show people that you don’t have to be the owner of a product to still enjoy that product. This shift in mindset appeals to many, especially the younger generation. They are aware that the jeans are not with them forever. It also increases the awareness that the materials from which the product is made have had a life before and will have a life after they are done wearing it.”
Mud is currently trialing a more extensive repair pilot in Amsterdam and Utrecht, the Netherlands. The prospective program would allow any customer to repair their Mud jeans for free. Launched at the end of last year, this service has facilitated 65 repairs so far, Landsberg said Monday.
Though measuring the impact of these repair services is difficult, she said customer feedback has suggested these repair services extend the jeans’ lifetimes by several years.
“Running a holistic take-back scheme has also taught us a lot about efficient reverse logistics and circular design,” Landsberg added. “Through feedback from our logistics partner and our recycling partners we have been able to create a well-functioning system. By taking this approach for several years, we have also been able to increase the amount of recycled denim we use.”
Ultimately, however, Mud has learned to accept that circularity will come at a higher price.
“Using recycled cotton is still more expensive than using virgin cotton,” Landsberg said. “We have learned to stick to our values and continue doing what we think is important anyway. Meaning: taking back old jeans for free and recycling them into new jeans, despite the higher costs.”