By recycling used jeans, Belgian company HNST is selling quality denim that is much more environmentally friendly than any other denim on the market to date.
The production of traditional jeans is extremely polluting. Denim fabric undergoes several chemical treatments to colour it, make it waterproof (synthetic resins, formaldehyde) and give it an aged or faded look (chlorine, potassium permanganate). Not to mention the amount of water used, which would be equivalent to that in an Olympic-sized swimming pool for a single pair of jeans.
The end result is a denim made of 56% recycled cotton fibre. No other brand on the world market achieves such a percentage. The remaining 44% consists of cotton, Tencel and eucalyptus cellulose, all environmentally friendly and produced in Europe.
1. Recycled Denim: Better for planet and people
Cotton is a thirsty crop. A conventional pair of jeans requires on average 3 kg of raw cotton and consequentially, 7000 liters of water. Globally, cotton is mostly grown in mono-culture, around 2,5% of the total agriculture land is used for cotton farming. On top of that the sector annually consumes around 16% of the total insecticides budget, leaving a massive negative impact on the environment, local communities and biodiversity.
HNST makes jeans like all jeans should be made, with a minimal impact on people and planet. The product with the lowest impact is the one that already exists, that’s why the raw material of HNST’s jeans is recycled denim. With the use of mechanical recycling we’re able to recycle old jeans at the fiber level.
A process that takes place in Germany, the result: recycled cotton fibers. In Belgium these fibers are blended with Tencel and spun into the HNST yarn, after which they travel to Italy to weave the HNST fabric.
HNST jeans contain 56% recycled cotton, 23% Greek cotton and 21% Tencel. As a result they only require 361 liters of water per pair. Which means a reduction of water consumption with 95%, compared with industry standards.
2. Life Cycle Assessment of a pair of jeans
Denim is immensely popular. Conventional jeans are usually made out of cotton and are known for its high environmental impact. It is estimated that one pair of jeans requires approximately 3 kg of raw cotton and 7000 liters of water. On top of that, denim dyeing and finishing is related to the emission of hazardous chemicals (such as cadmium, mercury and lead) into freshwater bodies resulting in harmful effects for local ecosystems and communities.
Denim is considered to be ‘green’ when the raw material is blended with recycled or sustainable fibers and when the production process uses less water and chemicals. HNST wants to produce jeans that have nothing to hide with the lowest impact possible. Therefore, HNST conducted a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to calculate the environmental impact of HNST’s jeans.
Every LCA starts with a careful material analysis. This is necessary to allocate the different environmental impacts (e.g. water consumption, global warming, eutrophication, acidification, etc.) to the different materials in the product. This is how HNST determined the functional unit of HNST’s LCA: being one pair of jeans, consisting of 600 grams denim (97,6%) and 5 grams pocket lining (2,4%). More details can be found here
3. Made in Europe
- Belgium: harvesting and sorting old jeans in collaboration with De Kringwinkel
- Germany: mechanically recycling of collected worn-out trousers into recycled cotton fibers
- Belgium: European Spinning Group blends the recycled cotton fibers with Tencel® and spins the HNST yarn
- Italy: Pure Denim weaves the HNST fabric
- Portugal: Lisama sews and IVN Laundry washes the HNST jeans
Six models for women and six for men are already available in store or via HNST. And the product range is set to gradually expand, with t-shirts, tights and underwear that are just as sustainable.