The Process of Recycling Cotton from Jeans to Denim Insulation
Begun in 2006 at 14 colleges and universities, the Cotton. From Blue to Green.™ denim recycling program collected 14,566 pieces of denim in its first year. A year later, 70,000 square feet of UltraTouch™Denim Insulation was manufactured from recycled denim and given to a Habitat for Humanity project in New Orleans. The program later evolved to include corporate sustainability initiatives and retail partners, which proved an effective means to provide consumers with a discount on new apparel items in exchange for donating unwanted jeans. Since its inception, the program, now renamed Blue Jeans Go Green™, has collected more than one million pieces of denim, effectively diverting more than 600 tons of denim from landfills.
In the first three years (2006 to 2008), working with students, universities, local businesses, national retailers and people across the U.S., the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive received nearly 100,000 pieces of denim resulting in almost 200,000 square feet of UltraTouch™. The denim collected created enough insulation to assist with building efforts in approximately 200 homes with Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the hurricane-affected Gulf Coast Region. In spring 2009, National Geographic Kids magazine partnered with the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive /to set the Guinness World Record™ for “Most Items of Clothing Collected for Recycling” as a means of educating young people about recycling. The three-month-long collection effort saw donations from kids across the world, and culminated in a widely-covered media event in August at Washington DC’s Union Station. The record was officially set at 33,088 pieces of denim. In fall 2009, the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive partnered with several retailers, one of which was teen retailer Vanity, Inc., which has almost 200 stores nationwide. Vanity set the ambitious goal of collecting 100,000 pairs of jeans during their three-week promotional period and ended up surpassing it; the final tally was 105,192, which will be enough to insulate about 200 homes. Throughout the year, the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive resonated with companies that wanted to build on their own internal corporate responsibility initiatives, but in a way that wouldn’t require a monetary donation. American Eagle Outfitters, Burt’s Bees, Express, Harley Davidson, and Pepsi Bottling Group were just some of the companies who partnered with the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive, ultimately donating nearly 25,000 pieces of denim in 2009. The COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive continues to focus on education and outreach at the college level. Today’s students are highly involved and interested in sustainability and the ways in which they can make a difference. In 2009, eight universities participated in the program: Butler University, University of Memphis, University of Kentucky, Marshall University, University of Southern Mississippi, University of South Dakota, North Dakota State University and Kansas State University. At each university, the drive encouraged students to collect denim from the student population as well as from the surrounding community, and was facilitated by a student organization at each school. Ultimately, students collected nearly 20,000 pieces of denim. Over 180,000 pieces of denim were collected in 2009 which greatly exceeded the total collected in the three previous years combined. Since the start of the COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® denim drive in 2006, the program has received a total of over 270,000 pieces of denim and provided enough UltraTouch™ Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation for 540 houses in areas of the country affected by natural disasters, and more notably, preventing 200 tons of denim from being sent to landfills. The COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN.® program continues to gain awareness and will undoubtedly continue to grow in years to come.
Cotton seed is planted from early February to mid-May and the matured fluffy, white bolls are harvested from September through December. Spinning mills purchase bales of cotton, then blend, clean and straighten cotton fibers into a continuous strand called sliver, which goes through additional processes prior to spinning. The spinning process reduces the sliver’s weight and inserts twist in order to produce a yarn, which is then packaged and ready for a weaving mill. Yarns are combined to form a continuous “rope,” and many ropes are fed into multiple indigo dyeing baths. Once dried, ropes are separated into individual yarns, wound onto sheet-like beams and mounted on a loom for weaving. Large rolls of finished denim fabric are shipped to garment manufacturers, and assorted denim garments are created for sale at retail. Once the denim is given back to be recycled, the denim is then returned to its natural, original fiber state, cotton, preparing it for the insulation process. The reprocessed cotton fiber is treated with a borate solution for fire retardency and mold/mildew resistance. Sheets of insulation are cut to size and prepared for packaging to be shipped and installed for use in residential homes and commercial buildings across the country. UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation is composed of 85% recycled cotton fibers and is an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation without carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde or chemical irritants. It provides exceptional thermal performance and acoustically provides 30% better sound absorption than traditional fiberglass insulation. In addition, it is one of the only insulating products that contains an active mold/mildew inhibitor.
Bonded Logic, Inc. Bonded Logic, based out of Chandler, Arizona, manufactures several natural fiber insulation products including UltraTouch, an environmentally safe, non-itch insulation made from natural fibers that offers exceptional acoustic and thermal performance with no carcinogenic warnings, formaldehyde, or chemical irritants used. UltraTouch is sold nationwide via building materials distributors and lumberyards. All of the insulation products manufactured at Bonded Logic are Class-A fire rated, safe for the environment, contain no harmful chemicals or irritants, and do not pose off gassing or VOC concerns. JBM Fibers JBM continues to be a world leader in the textile recycling and fiber conversion industry. JBM has the capability of processing a variety of raw materials into almost any material including shoddy fibers, cotton, synthetic, denim, wool, post consumer and mill waste. Strategically located in Brownsville, Texas, JBM Fibers maximizes sourcing supply lines from both the U.S. and Mexico.