While it’s understood that circularity is key to reducing denim’s environmental impact, it still poses a number of challenges that prevent it from being adopted at scale. One of these roadblocks is the degradation of quality that comes with incorporating recycled materials into new denim, but Orta may have a solution.
The Turkish denim mill recently debuted Golden Ratio, a standard for blending pre- and post-consumer recycled cotton and natural fibers. The company says it has developed, as the name implies, the optimum balance of these materials while achieving premium denim constructions without compromising their look, feel and longevity.
In developing this optimum balance, Orta’s product development team considered two main factors at the spinning stage: fiber length and length distribution within the batch. Ozgur Can Yazkurt, Orta’s product development manager, said that short fibers (fibers that measure under half an inch) can weaken the yarn, causing additional issues such as unevenness, floating fiber and varying thickness levels. This can then lead to even more complications as material moves through the production process.
“In the warping, dyeing and weaving processes, yarn can break and weaving faults can increase, causing lower quality and higher production waste, which in the end contradicts with your main objective,” he said.
In a typical virgin cotton batch, short fibers make up around 20-22 percent of the ratio. In a recycled cotton batch, this percentage shoots up to 65 percent, increasing the risk of breakage. Golden Ratio is Orta’s standard for mitigating this risk and achieving a durable material using the highest amount of recycled cotton.
But setting the standard was just one hurdle Orta has since cleared. Other challenges include sourcing recycled cotton, as high-quality recycled fibers are in short supply. Orta currently sources pre- and post-consumer recycled cotton from a local partner in Turkey.
Next up, Orta is continuing its strides in eco-engineering and focusing on dyes, experimenting with new earthy colors derived from food-grade waste by-products.
According to Yazkurt, companies throughout the denim industry will continue to inspire one another to drive progress forward. “We know that, if we support the work of innovators and startups, we can open new opportunities for the next ones, feed their imagination and creativity and motivate them to do more and do better,” he said.