The difference between biodegradable and compostable products was the focus of Artistic Milliners’ first educational event at its New York City showroom.
The company kicked off its Milliners Soho MasterClass Series Friday, an interactive platform designed to engage denim professionals through discussions with their peers, industry authorities and experts in their respective fields.
The goal is to lead in-depth sessions that address current trends and best practices to inspire interactive discussions and group knowledge sharing. Ebru Ozaydin, Artistic Milliners senior vice president of sales and marketing, described the class as a chance to continue the conversations that are started on stage at industry events in an informal environment where attendees are welcomed to share their questions and concerns about the denim supply chain.
“There’s a new terminology and jargon about sustainability,” she said. “There is always something new that you have to be abreast of so you do not lag behind.”
Tricia Carey, Lenzing director of global business development-denim, led the discussion on what it means for products to be biodegradable and compostable. “It’s no longer that you have a garment and you throw it away,” she said. “Because where is ‘away’ anymore? We see the effects of waste—it’s not going away. So, we have to be responsible in what we’re developing and design.”
As a result, circularity in the denim industry is gaining momentum. However, Carey said there’s still confusion around the disposal of apparel, especially as the denim industry uses more multi-fiber blends. Though the terms are commonly misused and used interchangeably, Carey pointed out there are major differences between biodegradability and compostability.
“We should be striving for compostable materials rather than just biodegradable,” she said.
Biodegradability, she continued, is a component of compostabilty. A biodegradable product will break down under certain conditions, but there are no guidelines for how long that process will take. “The term ‘biodegradable’ has no legal enforcement or definition, and so this is where we can even get into some greenwashing,” she said.
Compostable products are biodegradable and they add a benefit to the soil. Additionally, citing FTC requirements, Carey said compostable products must break down in one to four months, must not decrease the plant regeneration of the soil and must not leave toxic residues in soil. “And this is important because something might biodegrade but it could have dyestuff or other chemicals in it that could be harmful to the soil,” she added.
Tencel is certifiable compostable. A 100 percent Tencel indigo shirt, Carey said, will break down leaving just the placket, cuffs and some interfacing after 12 weeks, leaving no toxicity behind.
“We need to do some improvements with our sewing thread and interfacing,” she said, adding the product developers need to not just look at the fabric they’re using, but examine all of the components.
The MasterClass, Carey said, represents how the denim industry can collaborate and make beautiful products, and at the same time, pause to think about impact of these products.
“This is where we’re being challenged as an industry,” she said, describing a game of tug-of-war. The quick cycle of fashion is calling for more seasons, drops and sales, while the supply chain is being called upon to become more sustainable. “This is where I see that we need to come together, she said.
Future events, Ozaydin said, will feature speakers from Roica and Jeanologia.