Built from old bulletproof vests and firefighter suits that were heading to the dump.
- Built from old bulletproof vests and firefighter suits
- Soft and warm
- Fire resistant
Every single second, a garbage truck’s worth of clothing is dumped into landfill somewhere on Earth. So if we want to avoid trashing our planet, we have to start figuring out how to re-use the stuff we already have.
That’s why the Garbage Sweater started with a very simple idea. What if garbage isn’t garbage? What if it’s simply pre-assembled raw materials that we can use to make new things.
Designed to help rethink the role that garbage will play in Earth’s future, the Garbage Sweater takes old firefighter suits and bulletproof vests that were destined to spend the next few centuries on a rubbish pile, and transforms them into a warm, soft, fire-resistant sweater.
Landfill can become a source of raw materials
Around 100 billion new pieces of clothing are made each year. And by 2050 that number is likely to double. At the same time we’re dumping over 150 tons of clothing in landfill every minute. So if we want to change that we need to start figuring out how to make new clothes from the ones we already have. While lots of the materials we work with start life in a cutting-edge lab or out in nature, the Garbage Sweater comes from a huge pile of trash.
Built from the toughest materials in the trash
Every material on Earth can end up in a garbage dump. There aren’t any real limits or restrictions. So you’ll find billions of tonnes of nylon and polyester from normal clothes which can take up to 200 years to decompose. But to make the Garbage Sweater we chose to work with some waste materials which are even more challenging to re-use. They’re called meta-aramid and para-aramid, collectively known as aramids, and we get them from old firefighter suits and bulletproof vests.
Aramids are adding to the landfill crisis
The problem with aramid fibres is that the exact properties which make them incredibly useful are the same properties which make them extremely hard to get rid of. They won’t decompose for hundreds of years, and you can’t incinerate them because they won’t burn, so they simply get dumped in landfill. Every year 500 tons of firefighter gear are thrown away in France alone where the Garbage Sweater’s material is constructed.
70% of the material is from firefighter suits
Firefighter suits are typically built out from meta-aramid which is highly flame resistant, doesn’t melt and has powerful thermal resistance. Its properties aren’t reserved just for firefighters either. Make a list of some of the most extreme and demanding jobs in the world, from astronauts and F1 drivers to military pilots and tank operators, and you’ll find them wearing clothing built from meta-aramid.
The other 30% is from bulletproof vests
The remaining 30% of the sweater is made from para-aramid. While it’s closely related to meta-aramid which is a semi-crystalline fibre, it’s spun using a different technique to create a highly crystalline fibre. This high crystallinity results in a material with incredible tensile strength. It’s 5x stronger than steel on a weight for weight basis. And it’s so tough that 8 layers of it can stop a bullet. Which is exactly why it’s used to build bulletproof vests.
Firefighter suits and ballistic vests have a short lifespan
Although meta-aramid and para-aramid can withstand things that normal materials can’t, they’re not invincible. Firefighter gear and ballistic vests are put under massive strain through their day to day use. And when they’re exposed to heat, chemicals and abrasion they gradually degrade. Once they’ve broken down to the point where they’re no longer safe to be worn as protective gear they have to be replaced. It makes the normal lifespan of a firefighter suit or a bulletproof vest just 5 years.
Recycling aramid is hard
While it might not be strong enough or safe enough to work as protective gear anymore, in reality the clothes have only lost a fraction of their original properties. So we decided to make the first ever sweater out of old aramid fibres. While some efforts are being made to repurpose meta-aramids and para-aramids for use as insulation, the existing infrastructure to recycle these materials is pretty limited.
How we make fabric out of garbage
All this means that building a Garbage Sweater requires a totally different process to how you would build a regular sweater. It starts by gathering a huge pile of trash made up of old firefighter suits, old bulletproof vests and unwanted fabric scraps that were produced during their original manufacturing processes. This pile is then shredded so that all of the fibres can be pulled out. These fibres are then cleaned, blended and spun to make the new material, which is then stitched and sewn into a sweater.
As soft and comfortable as a regular sweater
While the Garbage Sweater is built with unconventional materials and experimental techniques, it’s not built to sit in a museum. It’s designed to be worn. It’s comfortable, warm, soft and sturdy. And both the inside and outside of the sweater feel like a rugged fleece.
The material can still repel fire
Even though the aramid fibres were destined for landfill, they still retain enough of their properties to make the Garbage Sweater fire resistant. Hold a flame to the material and it won’t catch fire and the flames won’t spread. It’s why the only other use for this material until now has been building protective industrial gloves designed to hold a piece of metal at 350°C for 12 seconds.
It's not bulletproof yet
Depending on the type, weight and velocity of a bullet, bulletproof vests normally need a minimum of 8 layers of para-aramid to provide sufficient protection. These layers of super strong fibres act like a net, catching the bullet and suppressing its kinetic energy. Bigger, heavier and more powerful bullets sometimes need more than 50 layers of para-aramid to be stopped. So while the Garbage Sweater is made with 30% para-aramid, and blended into a single layer with meta-aramid to add strength, it’s not bulletproof.
It comes in its own garbage box
The Garbage Sweater comes in its own garbage box. It works like a pizza box, but has a sweater in it rather than a Margherita.
Size + Fit
The Garbage Sweater is designed with a regular fit.
|Fits chest||83 - 90||91 - 98||99 - 106||107 - 114||115 - 122||123 - 130|
|Fits waist||71 - 76||76 - 81||81 - 86||86 - 91||91 - 96||96 - 101|
|Fits chest||33 - 36||36 - 39||39 - 42||42 - 45||45 - 48||48 - 51|
|Fits waist||28 - 30||30 - 32||32 - 34||34 - 36||36 - 38||38 - 40|