In a previous article we looked at an interview with a company who is helping to reduce waste by using waste to create other items.
In this article we will also be looking at an interview with Recover Brands.
Image by Recover Brands
They are a company that is helping to reduce waste, by innovatively making t-shirts using recycled plastic bottles and cotton scraps. That’s amazing!
Without further ado, let’s explore Recover brands and learn more about the work they are doing by going through the interview.
How did you start?
We started back in 2010, our founder Bill really was passionate about combining sustainability with the textile industry. The Textile industry was really a huge problem at this point when it comes to waste in general. I think it’s the third leading industry right now for waste that’s going to the landfill and carbon emitter as well.
He worked with a packer that also worked with the textile industry to develop a yarn that utilizes recycled plastic bottles, and then upcycle cotton scrap that’s then knitted into fabric, and then cut and sewn into a t-shirt which that technology had been around for a little while. The carbon industry was the first industry that used it starting as early back in the 1980s. But back then, they didn’t market it because nobody was really into recycling or sustainability, so they thought people would be like” Hey, I don’t want to buy this,” because there’s garbage in it’” versus looking at it from a perspective of polyester is a very strong durable material that can be repurposed into many different things. So that was his mission and vision starting the company and since then.
What does your market look like?
We really serve as a merchandise partner for a lot of different industries. That outdoor was big for us. The running market, the music industry, the event industry, the commercial products industry; really anybody that needs a t-shirt with our logo on it, that’s where we best serve as a partner. So, a lot of our customers will fall under one of those categories as well as having a direct hit stream or website where you could buy one of our recover designs, that’s just a small majority of our business right now.
And then just to back up too on the material side, we really have two supply chains running now.
How are your products made?
As I mentioned that yarn earlier. The recycled plastic is all number one PET plastic bottles. So plastic bottles that go in the recycling bin on an everyday basis, and then also upcycle cotton scraps as well which are post-manufactured waste that comes from other t-shirt mills which if you think about like a roll of fabric after the t-shirt silhouettes are cut out. There is a lot of different scraps that are you know too small to remake into anything else. So those are all sorted into color broken back down into cotton fiber and then blended with the recycled plastic fiber to create the yarn for our products. And the cool thing about that on top of it being 100% of recycled, it is also very water friendly in that we save about 90% of water that the conventional cotton t-shirt takes. So normally yarn is like spun and it is like a cotton color and then from there it’s knit into fabric, and then the fabric is dyed to achieve the color that you want for that fabric. And that takes a lot of water the dye process is really water intensive. You just texture like large fats of the water with the fabric in it and then you would just soak the fabric in those tubs to achieve that color.
So that process is entirely cut out for us when it comes to yarn production.
What is the sustainable impact?
On the supply chain itself, we currently work with some factories here in the southeast. We’re based out of Charlotte North Carolina. And from start to finish, from the plastic bottles, recycled cotton, to the finished product of the t-shirt it is all done within a 250-mile radius. So again, on top of being recycled, water-friendly, it is also very slim when it comes to carbon emissions from a transportation perspective when you think about other perils that might be coming from Europe or Asia or other countries, stuff is shipped back and forth. Yarn is shipped to China; China then ships the yarn back to the US, then it is cut or so on.
So, from a carbon emission standpoint alone, you know there is a lot just eliminated right off the bat with a local supply chain.
Then our other supply chain is in El Salvador. The cool thing about that process is it's where a lot of our technical products are done. So same yarn, same process. It’s all within a 10-mile radius there. And they have a lot of infrastructure that exists in El Salvador that we don't have in the US when it comes to textile production just with the way that the past few decades have progressed with them really leaning on textiles as a leading industry. They have a lot more capability when it comes to product development. So, they partner with folks down there, to make sure that they are creating good jobs, paying fair wages, safe jobs, and giving back to the communities that are creating that product for us. And that’s all done within a 10m radius down there. And the facility is run off solar power and they have an extensive water recycling program too where any water that’s used during production is then clean filtered and then recycled back into the municipality.
So yeah, that’s sort of our two supply chain lines. And we’re continuing to do more on the RMB side. We're always figuring out how we can use other products that can be useful with as low as impact possible using sustainable materials.
On the textile industry in the United States, what do you think that you do that had such a great impact that your competitors don’t do?
I think there’s a lot of different things when people look at our brand. I think obviously the first thing is the raw material itself. So, using recycled plastic, using upcycled cotton, and we’ve also introduced a US organic cotton line where the cotton is grown in Texas and then the rest of the process is finished here in the Carolinas.
So, looking at our brand and products from a material standpoint and them from also a storyline with the supply chains and then, you know also just transparency. There’s a lot of people that initially right off the bat might not be like ‘Hey I didn't realize that this t-shirt was recycled but I learned a lot about local supply chains and carbon emissions.’ You know how that is the next step to improve the textile industry’. So, what you have is some folks that approach it that way and it’s like ‘Oh cool’, on top of it it’s recycled.
And then the reverse is true as well where people are like ‘You know what I’ve learned about this shirt? There are eight plastic bottles in it. I bought it from this retailer that was telling that story, and then on top of that, it’s sort of a bonus that it’s made within a 250-mile radius.’ So, I think from that standpoint we're all about storytelling. When somebody sees our shirt in a store or if they're at an event and they get one of our shirts, we’re really trying to prove that the storytelling aspect where somebody can see this and sort of understand this concept right off the bat, and then sort of be happy and use it as a product where we try to run it a lot at an event. For example, you can think of how many t-shirts you've gotten for free that’s like uncomfortable, it doesn't fit well. The print feels terrible and you're like okay I'm going to wear it once to an event and probably never wear it again. So, we're trying to frame it as a canvas or like a storytelling piece with your brand name. And then you know almost have people that buy this product as a walking billboard, because they say ‘Hey I really like this t-shirt; I might have spent a bit more money on it, but I'm going to use it to its full capacity. And letting them be like a liaison with the brand after they purchase that.
And the other thing is really transparency. We've really seen on a consumer level from an education standpoint, people are starting to understand the damage that fast fashion has caused over the years and, you know all this development of non-recycled materials for this industry, and they're started to understand the impact that it's having on people and the planet. So going to other brands and saying ‘Hey I want to know where this shirt’s made who’s making it and what it’s made from. So those three questions we’re trying to answer, just with going on our website. We really think that's going to be the catalyst for making a positive change in the Carolina industry going forward. As the consumer education grows, you know brands and companies are going to have to be forced to change and make those positive change for good.
What would you say is one of your biggest hurdles when it comes to the consumer market where understanding is concerned?
I think that we’ll take e-waste (electronic waste) out of the equation because there is a lot. I know that the potential for recycling e-waste is huge. Unfortunately, on the plastic bottle, when it comes to curbside recycling and recycling in general in America, the system is very much broken. I continued to read stats from last year where some research says that 9% of plastic bottles that were put into recycling were recycled and it’s probably most likely less than that.
From our end one thing that we struggle with and are continuing to improve when it comes to our story. We don’t want people to think, ‘Oh this shirt is made from plastic bottles, I’m going to keep using plastic bottles because we’re going to make more shirts. ‘We’re trying to curb just single-use plastic in general and sort of using it for the mentality of ‘Hey we're all in this together. When it comes to plastic pollution, there's so much of it already here. That needs to stop immediately. So when it comes to action and being proactive, we’re trying to partner with organizations for stricter laws when it comes to these plastics and also partners that are better than us in terms of getting the word out about the damage that single-use plastic is giving, So we’re trying to improve a ‘just because we use plastic bottles’, ‘we're using this just because this material already exists and we can make it into something better. But at the same time, we want to have the approach where we need to curb our lifestyle where everything is more of a reuse before we hit you know ‘reduce, reuse before recycling comes in’. So, with our messaging, we built a t-shirt that's durable and sustainable. We want you to use that shirt if you can until it meets the end of its life. It's always a delicate balance I would say for telling that story of consumerism and then also conscious consumerism. And then on top of getting rid, it would be awesome if we could just get to a point where there are no plastic bottles left to make t-shirts because that means the Earth is in a really great spot.
Unfortunately, with our current system, that's not going to be attainable, so continuing to use materials with lower impacts right now while trying to educate people about the harms and the effects of single-use plastics is what we have in mind. And I’m sure you’ve come across this as well when it comes to share numbers and statistics that are out there. When it comes to waste and our behavior as a global population, it can get pessimistic quickly. So, I think just like what you’re doing right now with the Hendricks Foundation, continuing to preach similar messages. When it comes to preaching similar messages, when it comes to really being more conscious about what you're consuming. Whether that’s clothing, or the electronics that you’re dealing with on a daily basis. I think we’re bringing the message that ‘We’re all in this together.’
To the companies that are out there starting their journey with recyclable, manufacturing or sustainable goods or sustainable processes in general, what advice would you give them?
My best advice would be when we first started there’s definitely a lot of people that don’t understand or don’t see the vision like my last point that we touched on.
There is all these damning statistics, that we’re screwed. That the e-waste problem will never be solved even before you get to what you’re doing right? You know there’s so much saying that we’re not going to turn this ship around or turn the thoughts about when it comes to pollution. I would say perseverance and keep pursuing. I think one thing that’s really helped us is doing what you’re doing right now. Continue to network; continue to find like-minded companies that have the same mission, the same values. Network get an idea of what they're doing, what they're focused on. There are all sorts of different avenues out there, different companies that might just be at a smaller stage where somewhere along the line, they might just partner with you and help tell a story together in a way that's beneficial for both entities. Even with our competitors there are not many in our space, but we try not to look at it so much as competition; it’s more of a rising kite floats all booths. So, if our competitors have somebody that buys their T-shirts instead of ours, it's a win in our column because that person made the decision to buy a higher-priced point item instead of something cheap and not made with a lower impact. So, we consider that as a win, and down the line they will order one of our products, but sort of just curbing behavior that way and I think that’s best achieved through partnerships and collaborations just across the board.
And that concludes the interview with Recover Brands.
Thank you for reading The Paperless Times.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or would like for us to interview your sustainable brand.