There’s a simple and satisfying joy in the idea that your old T-shirt can be made into a completely new one. Patagonia’s new Tee-Cycle T-Shirt is exactly that. Using the technology from the smart people at Infinited Fiber, old tees can be recycled into materials for new tees, thereby helping to build a circular clothing system.
Last summer, we reported on Patagonia’s deal with Infinited Fiber which guarantees the outdoor clothing company access to the limited-supply Infinna fiber. Infinna is fascinating in that it can be recycled continuously, extending the organic material’s life indefinitely. It is also completely biodegradable with no microplastics.
At the same time as securing this deal, Patagonia also launched its Take-Back Program that allows customers to return end-of-life Patagonia tees. Anything made with cotton, hemp or linen can be brought to a Patagonia store or posted by mail. The tees are then sent to Infinited Fibers to be turned into its recycled fibers and then re-made into new T-shirts.
The first of these T-shirts is the Tee-Cycle. Made with 70 percent pre-consumer recycled cotton and 30 percent Infinna fibers, the tee is also Fair Trade Certified™ sewn, which means the people who made it earned a premium for their labor.
The tees are classic Patagonia, featuring the brand’s wordmark on the chest. There are four color options: navy, white, blue-gray and khaki. Each feature a different nature-inspired design on the back such as sun-like graphics, wreaths of flowers and circular plants. The artwork is screen-printed using PVC- and phthalate-free inks.
The Take-Back Program, T-shirt and deal with Infinited Fiber is all part of Patagonia’s first step in its circular journey. “Ultimately, we want all of our products to live in a circular model so we can reduce our reliance on virgin materials,” the brand states on its website.
With global textile waste expected to increase 60 percent annually until 2030, it’s vital that brands like Patagonia, which produce garments at scale, design for circular ecosystems. That means thinking about the life of the garment long after it leaves the store or warehouse.