The US outdoor brand Patagonia, famous for its progressive sustainability and ecological programs, has published the first results of its comprehensive recycling effort, the Common Threads Recycling Program, launched in 2005 with the goal of transforming the entire Patagonia collection into recycleable garments within five years.

The company is off its target, but for the coming winter, has promised to offer a collection that is up to 71% recycleable, in addition to bags and daypacks. Twelve tons of apparel have been collected for the program, six of which have already been reused for new products.

The Common Threads Recycling Program began with an offer to consumers to return their worn out Capilene Performance Baselayers to the company for recycling. Since then, Patagonia has been able to expand the list of recyclable garments to include worn out Patagonia fleece, Patagonia cotton T-shirts, some additional polyester and nylon 6 products that come with a Common Threads tag, and Polartec fleece clothing from any maker.

“With the expansion of our Common Threads Recycling Program we’ll effectively be recycling our competitors’ garments into Patagonia clothing,” said Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s vice president of environmental initiatives. “What a great, environmentally sensitive way to supply our own supply chain!” he added.

Patagonia is currently working with two recycling programs. Worn polyester and nylon 6 is sent to Japan to be separated by a chemical process. After the materials are cleaned they are ready to be re-produced at the same level of quality. Organic cotton and wool meanwhile are recycled in Italy. Although transportation is a large expense, recycling still makes sense. The production of recycled materials saves in comparison to prime materials 76 % in energy and 71% in carbon dioxide.

Patagonia’s recycling motto is "Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle.” That suggests before clothing is ready to be recycled, it should be repaired or donated to the poor.

—Regina Henkel