The brand that put jean-leasing on the radar of denim heads is behind another circular first. After almost two years in development, Mud Jeans introduced Tuesday jeans made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) cotton.
Described as “the world’s first completely circular pair of jeans,” the Dutch company partnered with Saxion University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands to combine mechanically recycled fibers with chemically recycled fibers to create the jean.
Though companies for years have used pre-consumer waste like production and cutting scraps to meet their recycling claims, creating durable and high-quality jeans made entirely from PCR fibers has challenged the denim industry. Until recently, Dion Vijgeboom, Mud Jeans co-owner, said making a truly 100 percent circular jean was technically impossible.
Mud’s solution is a fabric that contains 50 percent mechanically recycled fibers and 50 percent chemically recycled fibers.
The brand used 67 percent mechanically recycled fibers and 33 percent chemically recycled fibers in the weft and 67 percent chemically recycled fibers and 33 percent mechanically recycled fibers in the warp.
Mechanical recycling is the process of mechanically shredding fabric into smaller and smaller pieces to achieve a fiber form. Chemical recycling is a process where cellulose material is dissolved through the organic compound NMMO, which is reused after application. From there, filaments are extruded to create fibers. Though chemical recycling does not sound sustainable, Vijgeboom said it is “nothing more than a collective term for the natural dissolution of cellulose material.”
The garments that were recycled to make the circular jeans included styles by Mud as well as jeans by other brands. The mechanically recycled portion was 98 percent cotton and 2 percent foreign fibers. The chemically recycled portion was 100 percent cotton.
Mud’s 100 percent PCR fabric meets industry standards for durability, a rep said, and is softer than the brand’s regular jeans that are blended with cotton. The chemically recycled fibers result in a softer fabric compared to the jeans it makes with virgin organic cotton.
Mud currently uses fabric that consists of 40 percent post-consumer recycled fibers and organic cotton. As a result, 93 percent less water and 74 percent less CO2 are used in the production of a Mud jean compared to industry-standard jeans. The shift to 100 percent PCR denim, however, allows the brand to incorporate even more used jeans into the production process and use less new cotton.
The jeans were revealed Tuesday at the “Road to 100” watch party in Laren, The Netherlands and streamed on YouTube.
Mud said the PCR jean is more expensive than the rest of its product line but the objective is to scale it into a commercial product. The company is working with industrial parties to bring the innovation into bulk production with the goal to have it ready for the market within a year.
“As a producer you have to take responsibility for your product,” Vijgeboom said. “We want to show that a world without waste—thanks to a circular economy—is possible and achievable.”