Patagonia wants your used undies

Your mom may have teased you about them, your spouse may say, "Yeee-ew," and your tent mate likely hopes they stay as far away from his side of the tent as possible. Patagonia, on the other hand, has decided it kind of likes the idea of collecting tired, worn out, and perhaps questionably presentable…Capilene undies.
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Your mom may have teased you about them, your spouse may say, "Yeee-ew," and your tent mate likely hopes they stay as far away from his side of the tent as possible. Patagonia, on the other hand, has decided it kind of likes the idea of collecting tired, worn out, and perhaps questionably presentable…Capilene undies.

Its goal is that by summer 2006 at least half of the Capilene line it sells will be made of 50 percent to 100 percent recycled fibers from all that previously worn stuff. Potentially, the program could recycle all of the 1.3 million Capilene base-layer pieces sold by Patagonia each year.

"This is huge," Michael Crooke, president and CEO of Patagonia, told SNEWS®. "We're the first global company to recycle clothing, and this'll be global."

The Common Threads Recycling Program, announced at the just-completed Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Show in Salt Lake City, will be done in conjunction with Osaka, Japan-based, fabric manufacturer Teijin, the developer of its "EcoCircle" system (www.teijin-eco.com) that takes worn polyester apparel and recycles it into virgin-quality fibers.

Yasunari Hotani, Teijin manager of the sports fabrics team, told SNEWS® that already 70 companies in Japan are taking part in the recycling program.

"This is its introduction to the outdoor market and globally," he said.

In addition, Patagonia has, as Crooke put it, "laid down the gauntlet" for other companies to jump aboard the program, which is open to all.

"Anybody can do it," Crooke added. "Let's do it. Why doesn't our industry take a lead?"

The process is not easy or short, however, Hotani explained. He pointed to a plastic exhibit that shows the stages a used garment must go through and how it is processed before it becomes new again. With that kind of processing, as well as the logistics of transportation and collection, it will take about six months, he said, for new fabric to be completed and ready to be made into new undies.

According to Patagonia, making new polyester fiber from used garments that have been mailed from customers to Patagonia, results in an energy savings of 76 percent and a CO2 emissions (greenhouse gasses) reduction of 71 percent, versus creating that fiber from new raw material.

Although the program isn't inexpensive, Patagonia said the recycled underwear will not cost more than the original, since the company will save on producing new fabric, making the expense a wash while also keeping the used pieces out of trash incinerators.

As of Sept. 12, consumers may take their used or worn garments to any of the 20 Patagonia brand stores nationwide or send them to Patagonia (www.patagonia.com).

"This is the right thing to do." Crooke said in a press conference at the OR show. "And I'm laying down the challenge to the outdoor industry that every single outdoor company that's using polyester should be learning more about the EcoCircle program and they should go to Teijin and start recycling their polyester."

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