Way too much of what is made these days ends up in the trash at the end of its useful life. At Patagonia, we're working to change that.
In 2005 we launched our Common Threads Recycling Program, through which customers could return their worn out Capilene® Performance Baselayers to us for recycling. We've since been able to expand the list of recyclable garments to include worn out Patagonia® fleece, Polartec® fleece clothing (from any maker), Patagonia cotton T-shirts, and now some additional polyester and nylon 6 products that come with a Common Threads tag.
Through Common Threads we can transform your unusable garments into new clothing, which gets us closer to a long-standing company goal of taking full responsibility for every product we make.
How to Recycle
Recycling old Patagonia garments is easy. Simply wash them first and use one of the following collection methods:
Please note: Recycling your old clothes is voluntary. If you choose to recycle, you'll gain the satisfaction of knowing that your old polyester garments will not end up in a landfill or an incinerator, and that future Patagonia products will require significantly less virgin polyester (less oil) than products from seasons past.
What's Next? Introducing the Common Threads Initiative
In the 18th century Lancashire’s cotton mills and the budding clothing trade helped fuel the Industrial Revolution and create the modern economy. Now it’s time to reverse the engines – to help create the next, more sustainable economy. With this catalog we launch our Common Threads Initiative: a partnership between our customers and ourselves to make, buy and use clothes more sustainably, with the ultimate aim to close the loop on the product life cycle – to make old clothes into new and keep them from ever reaching the landfill.
The Common Threads Initiative extends and builds on what we’ve learned from our original garment recycling program, whose single, ambitious goal was to make all Patagonia clothes recyclable within five years. This we will achieve next fall, a year behind schedule. We’ve learned from our original program that closing the loop at the end of product life is only the last of several significant steps, and that to wrest the full life out of every piece of our clothing the first three of the famous four R’s are equally important – to reduce, repair and reuse as well as recycle. We’ve also learned – it is equally important – that we can’t do it alone. We can only implement the four R’s if we do it in partnership with you, our customers.
First: Reduce. To get by with fewer clothes they have to be of excellent quality (which also means that they have to be made by fairly paid and treated workers and to the highest possible environmental safety standards). Their raw material should be organic or recycled. This initiative calls on us to re-commit to making clothes that last, stay reasonably in fashion and serve as many uses as possible. This calls on you to buy what you’ll wear – and want to keep long enough to wear out.
Second: Repair. If a zipper fails, have it fixed, especially if the garment has a lot of life in it. As our part of the bargain, to makes clothes that wear out as evenly as possible, we’ll fix it for free.
Third: Reuse. If you no longer want a garment, we’ll help provide a way for you to sell it or trade it for something else – or donate it to someone who needs it.
Fourth: Recycle. What can’t be worn any more, we will collect and recycle by the most efficient, least harmful method. Polyester and nylon clothes can be melted down and made into new fiber of the same quality as the original. Organic cotton and wool clothes have to be chopped up and spun into fiber of useful but lesser quality.
We’ll launch the Common Threads Initiative in steps over the coming year. Some elements will draw on what we already do – make durable, high-quality clothes, provide an ironclad guarantee, collect used-up clothes (39 tons so far) and recycle them (27 tons so far). We work closely with bluesign®, an independent verification company, to encourage a growing number of fabric suppliers to reduce resource consumption and better manage toxic chemicals. Through The Footprint Chronicles® we track the environmental impact of a growing number of styles.
A number of elements will be new and those largely will work toward making it easier for you to be a part of the initiative, from information on how to best care for and extend the life of your clothes, to making it easier to have them repaired, or to sell, swap or give them away, or finally to be sent in to us to turn them into something new.
Stay tuned. Information as it becomes available will appear on patagonia.com.
This article first appeared in the Patagonia Holiday 2010 catalog.