Levi’s Gives Used Jeans New Life

Your next pair of Levi’s could be someone else’s old Levi’s

Levi’s has partnered with Renewcell, an award-winning textile recycling company based in Sweden, to upcycle old denim into brand new jeans. According to the brand, after years of recycling efforts, this one is the most promising.

The denim industry is full of environmental problems. For starters, it takes around 10,000 liters of water to grow enough cotton for just one pair of jeans. Renewcell has come up with a circular approach that effectively shreds and chemically dissolves denim while filtering out contaminants and materials like nylon and polyester.

Paul Dillinger, Levi’s head of global product innovation, has shared that the old way of recycling was done by chopping cotton into smaller pieces. However, it didn't work as well because it degraded the value of the material. The company’s new innovative process produces Circulose—a cellulose similar to wood pulp-based viscose—which is fully circular as it keeps the old materials in the supply chain for as long as possible. Old jeans are excellent candidates because traditional denim is mostly cotton without other materials such as nylon. After a number of experimental capsule collections, the iconic brand has fully committed to Renewcell’s innovation for good. 

Alongside organic cotton, Levi’s is now using Circulose in its latest 501 Jeans. The brand also removed synthetic materials from the 501 like polyester, allowing the jeans to be recycled repeatedly. Dillinger believes a lot of companies are working on exciting solutions but that the industry as a whole won’t make strides unless everybody is innovating. “These are the most sustainable jeans Levi’s has ever made and a big step toward its circularity goals,” he said.