The fashion brand Adidas has tapped the sustainable fashion designer Stella McCartney to create a “100% recyclable hoodie” as part of its broader push toward sustainability, according to a press release.
At the moment, the “Infinite Hoodie” is more of a marketing effort than a fully fledged product launch — only 50 of the hoodies are being made. But the product’s realization demonstrates Adidas’ commitment to reducing textile waste. Throughout the fashion industry, more than 92 million tons of textile waste are created each year, according to the brand.
The hoodie is a case study in minimizing waste. It’s primarily made with recycled cotton produced by the company Evrnu, which uses a novel chemical recycling process to cleanly separate cotton fibers in a way that allows them to maintain their integrity. Traditional recycling methods are often too harsh on the fibers and end up degrading them in ways that make them hard to reuse.
Evrnu’s recycling process is at the heart of the venture. By investing in a better recycling method, Adidas and Stella McCartney hope to create more sustainable clothes that have longer lifespans.
Most clothes created today either get thrown away in the regular garbage stream, ending up in landfills, or get “downcycled” into things like car mats because they’re too hard to repurpose into new clothes. In addition to prevailing recycling methods being too harsh on clothes, most garments are made of multiple types of fabrics that can be hard to separate for effective reuse.
Throughout the world, only 1% of clothes ever gets recycled. Finding more effective ways to recycle clothes would both reduce the environmental impact of adding waste to landfills, harvesting new materials in the first place, and processing clothes, which requires huge amounts of resources like water.
“Fashion is one of the most harmful industries to the environment,” Stella McCartney said in a press release. “We can’t wait any longer to search for answers and alternatives. By creating a truly open approach to solving the problem of textile waste, we can help empower the industry at large to bring more sustainable practices into reality. With Adidas by Stella McCartney, we’re creating high-performance products that also safeguard the future of the planet.”
Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player Garbine Muguruza wears Adidas by Stella McCartney Infinite Hoodie.
Finding sustainable alternatives to how clothes are made and used is getting more urgent with every passing year, according to a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The amount of clothes produced globally has doubled since 2000, according to the consulting firm McKinsey, and the amount of time a person uses each garment has declined by 36% over the past 15 years.
McCartney, in particular, has long been at the forefront of sustainable fashion, and pursues a circular model of production in her eponymous label. In other words, her brand aims to ensure that all garments it creates eventually get recycled and reused.
Recently, she urged people to stop washing their clothes to reduce their environmental footprints. Using a washing machine uses a lot of energy, releases plastic into the atmosphere, and reduces the lifespan of clothes, she said.
“Every time we wash our clothes, an average of 9 million [plastic] microfibers are released into the environment," she told BBC News. "The way we wash our clothes affects this, as well as the way our clothes are made — but the more we wash our clothes, the more microfibers are released."
Instead of using a washing machine, she recommends hand-washing clothes and letting them dry.
The new partnership with Adidas could have a bigger impact. If a multinational brand like Adidas proves that Evrnu’s process can be scaled, then other major fashion players could adopt it as they try to become more sustainable.