TURNING FASHION WASTE INTO BLANKETS
Fashion waste is a growing issue in Australia. Australians throw out 23kg of textiles per person per year, and globally 50 million tonnes of clothes are thrown away each year with 80% ending up in landfill. Not only that, but businesses in the rag trade have very few options for disposing of their textile waste, which comes in the form of tonnes of offcuts and unworn clothing.
Since Seljak Brand launched, numerous businesses have approached us with their textiles waste – inspired by our closed loop recycled merino wool blanket – wanting help finding a solution for their waste. In response, in May 2017 we crowdfunded $32,000 to develop a lighter weight recycled blanket for the warmer months using the textiles waste of the Australian fashion industry. We were stoked that local t-shirt label Citizen Wolf jumped at the chance to be part of the project – the first of its kind in Australia.
"Seljak Brand is a champion of the circular economy... we couldn’t think of a better partner to recycle our majority organic cotton scraps into something equally beautiful and designed for those long hot summers that Sydney is so famous for!" - Zoltan Csaki, co-founder of Citizen Wolf.
Collecting t-shirt offcuts from Citizen Wolf
We partnered with Citizen Wolf because they have an appetite for innovation, are manufacturing locally in Sydney and wanted a sustainable solution for their waste. Citizen Wolf are a pioneering fashion label, making high quality t-shirts to each customer's own dimensions, designing out the waste that comes with over-ordering fabric. The cotton, linen, bamboo and merino offcuts from Citizen Wolf’s t-shirt production were high quality and silky soft. A resource too good to waste!
The innovation process at a nearly 150 year old mill was slow and steady. We spent the better part of two years working to turn the production waste of Citizen Wolf into blankets. After testing their shred-ability, the offcuts ragged beautifully, making a perfect fibre-stock ready for spinning. It was the spinning phase that proved tricky, with the majority cotton fibres being too short to bind into a tight, strong yarn. We documented the process in a report so you can see successes, failures, opportunities and limitations of working with pre-consumer textiles waste in Australia.
While the outcome wasn’t quite what we hoped, we’re optimistic that we can turn pre- and post-consumer textiles waste from around Australia into beautiful, useful things for everyday living. And we’re still working on it!
In the meantime, watch how we turn textile waste into blankets here, or watch this video of the carding testing that was part of the innovation process:
SELJAK BRAND x ASRC
Karina donating Seljak Brand blankets to ASRC
For every ten blankets sold, Seljak Brand donates one to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in Melbourne where asylum seekers are made to feel welcome, safe and supported. Providing job training, access to health services and legal advice, as well as food and household goods (and warm blankets!), ASRC offers the support and opportunities asylum seekers need to live independently. Our grandparents were refugees from Slovenia and we want to support asylum seekers making a new home in Australia. So far, Seljak Brand has donated 177 blankets to ASRC.
"My English student's little girl always fetches her special blanket to sit on when she has her lunch. She loves her blanket. Thank you Seljak for giving this little girl something special of her own." – Danila, English tutor for asylum seekers, Melbourne
The Better Threads Project is an active inquiry into the question, are circular models for denim possible in Australia? Our vision for circularity in denim is to utlise materials at their highest utility, diverting textiles from landfill and returning the value to producers and consumers of denim.
Understanding that the key to using waste a resource is collaboration for scalability, we set out to establish a network and a pooled body of knowledge.
The Better Threads Roundtable was a waste-to-resource focused business gathering on Sydney on 26 September, 2016, that discussed the barriers and opportunities to a circular denim business model in Australia. The event brought together 10 key stakeholders from a range of industries including denim and cotton production, logistics, retail, charity and upcycling, expert consulting, waste and recycling and academia to discuss different circular economy approaches. The body of knowledge and useful insights gained by the business roundtable was distilled into a report that was distributed to interested parties.
To see the project's findings check out the Better Threads Roundtable Report.
Better Threads project team: Simone Awramenko, Nikki Gravning, Karina Seljak, Paula Wallace and Harriet Watts