Garbage T Shirt
Built from two of the largest waste streams on Earth. Old clothes. And old plastic bottles.
- Speckled pattern from leftover fragments of old clothes
- Half of the t shirt is recycled cotton
- Four plastic bottles go into making each t shirt
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 T Shirt 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 T Shirt takes two waste streams that were destined to spend the next few centuries on a rubbish pile – old clothes and plastic bottles – and transforms them into a soft, speckled t shirt. Lots of the materials that we’ve shredded and re-used were dyed in their previous lives, and it’s these leftover fragments of dye that show up as hundreds of tiny coloured dots.
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 over 150 tons of clothing are dumped in landfill every minute. So if we want to change that we need to start figuring out how to make new clothes from the stuff we already have. While lots of the materials we work with start life in a cutting-edge lab or out in nature, the Garbage T Shirt comes from a huge pile of trash.
The next step in our Garbage range
In 2021 we launched the Garbage Sweater, the first piece of clothing in our Garbage range. Built from old bulletproof vests and firefighter suits, the sweater was a first step in exploring how we can re-use some of the toughest and most challenging materials in the trash, para-aramid and meta-aramid. For the Garbage T Shirt we’ve gone for a different approach and worked with the most common materials the world throws away. Because if waste streams are going to become a viable source of raw materials, then we have to tackle the biggest ones too.
Half the t shirt is made from recycled cotton
Around 75% of the world’s clothing contains cotton. And even though cotton biodegrades, it’s also one of the most commonly found materials in landfill, as only a fraction of today’s clothes get recycled. So we intercept cotton that was headed to the dump and use it to build half of the Garbage T Shirt.
Four plastic bottles go into each t shirt
To make the other half of the Garbage T Shirt we combine recycled cotton with recycled polyester. Around 60% of all clothing in the world is made with synthetic fibre. And the majority of that is polyester. Unlike cotton it doesn’t biodegrade as it’s a plastic. Which means that once it ends up in landfill it can take centuries to break down. So rather than creating new plastics to create new clothes, we re-use plastic that already exists, by extracting it from old plastic bottles.
Wear it like a regular t shirt
While the Garbage T Shirt is made up of plastics and other bits of trash, it feels just as soft and comfortable as a normal cotton t shirt. The only noticeable difference compared to a regular t shirt is its speckled pattern. Lots of the materials that we’ve shredded and re-used were dyed in their previous lives, and it’s these leftover fragments of dye that show up as hundreds of tiny coloured dots.
Where the future of clothing is going
There are three ways to tackle sustainable clothing. You can use advances in material technology to make clothes with a longer life expectancy than the people wearing them. You can go back to using nature to make clothes that require as little energy as possible and leave no trace of their existence at the end of their lives. Or you can start digging into waste streams to use the stuff people have already generated and discarded. With our 100 Year range, our Algae range, and our Garbage range, we’re now tackling all three routes at the same time.
How we make fabric out of garbage
The process for recycling cotton starts off with piles of old clothes – everything from t shirts and sweaters, to hoodies and jeans. These piles are then cut into smaller pieces, before being cleaned, shredded and turned into new fibre. The plastic bottles we use go through a similar mechanical process to create recycled polyester. Bales of crushed PET bottles are shredded and cleaned to make tiny flakes which are melted, spun and pulled through a machine to produce polyester fibres. The polyester and cotton fibres are then spun together into yarn which is finally knitted to create fabric.
Recycling these materials isn’t easy
You’d think it would be cheaper and quicker to make new clothes out of old clothes, but it really isn’t. It’s generally more difficult and more expensive to recycle materials than to create new ones. Partly because there are more steps involved, but also because the infrastructure around recycling is still in its early stages. So we make the Garbage T Shirt with a partner that’s been turning waste into yarn since 1947, long before it was a fashionable thing to do. They’ve spent more than 70 years perfecting the process of transforming unwanted materials into high quality recycled fibres.
OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 approved
When you’re working with waste streams it’s critical that you know they’ve been produced without the use of harmful substances. So the material we use is OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 approved – which is a method for certifying that the materials used in the t shirt are non-toxic and safe to wear.
The environmental footprint of the material
We’re also able to measure the environmental impact of the Garbage T Shirt with a method called the Life Cycle Assessment, which assesses factors like raw material extraction, manufacturing, processing and transportation. On average the material used to construct one Garbage T Shirt saves 1300 litres of water from being used – compared to a new t shirt. And it prevents 2kg of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. Which is equivalent to burning just under a litre of fuel.
The last 3% of the t shirt is unknown
The complexities of recycling mean it’s currently incredibly difficult to completely separate materials which have been gathered from the trash. So while we can say for sure that 50% of the t shirt’s material is recycled cotton, and that 47% is from plastic bottles, we can’t say what the remaining 3% is. All we know is that it was something that someone once threw away.
Size + Fit
The Garbage T Shirt has 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|