Could Your Next Pair of Jeans Be Made From Recycled Water Bottles?

A North Carolina-based sustainable fashion company is on the way to making it happen.

(Muffet/ Flickr)

Sep 13, 2013
A Canadian ex-pat with a passion for pop culture, Carly is a multi-published author, public speaker and screenwriter.

Sure it's convenient, but bottled water has a lot of problems—plastic waste being paramount. But an innovative clothing company has come up with a pretty cool way to use all of your old plastic: turning bottles into jeans.

Dirtball, a North Carolina-based sustainable fashion company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them create the plastic-based denim.

“There are 42 million plastic bottles that go into landfills in North Carolina alone,” says Dirtball founder Joe Fox. “And our brand launched with t-shirts, socks, polos, hoodies, sweatshirts and a whole line using plastic bottles in our fabric, but we decided to kick up our game. Besides, everyone loves jeans.”

Dirtball isn't the only company using recycled materials to create clothing. Puma and Nike have shoe lines using old rubber tires, New Balance has a shoe called Nimbus made from plastic bottles and recycled wool, Loomstate makes t-shirts using 50% recycled plastic, and Nau incorporates reusable fibers like coconut husk in their line.

But Dirtball takes it a step further by completely manufacturing the jeans in the U.S.—and keeping construction as local as possible. The buttons, burrs and zippers are made in Georgia, the waist tape and denim in North Carolina, and everything is assembled in Kentucky.

“We wanted to do it like the famers in the old days, where they had their own cows and chickens, their own garden—they had to be sustainable as locally as possible,” Fox says. “So I thought, why can’t we do something along those lines in fashion with existing tech and manufacturing in the U.S.?”

The brand is aiming to reach $40,000 in funding in less than two weeks, and is offering funders a variety of incentives including stickers, patches, socks, hats, t-shirts and polos, and even your own pair of the finished jeans once they come off the line. The denim will be made from a blend of 71 percent recycled cotton and 29 percent polyester. Yep, polyester is the part made with plastic.

“The bottles get collected at the landfill or wherever, and then they’re sold to people like a commodity,” Fox explains. “Our denim guys take them all bailed up to a processing plant that will clean them of labels and glue, and shape them into little plates that are broken down—and when they’re done being broke, they look like little shards of water bottle. Then they melt that down into a pellet kind of like a BB, pour them into a 55 gallon drum, and ship it to an extruder—that’s the guy who makes the fibers. They melt the pellets and push them through a big spaghetti strainer, and that makes a fine fiber.”

The polyester fiber is then blended with organic cotton to create the denim, which Fox says feels just like regular denim—most people don’t know the difference. Each pair will be made from approximately eight recycled water bottles.

Interested in helping them reach their goal? Check out their Kickstarter page.

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