Make It Right — founded by Brad Pitt — and American Eagle Outfitters have partnered on a project aimed at recycling “unwanted denim” into insulation materials that will be used in affordable houses. The retailer said today that the program is in honor of Earth Day, which is Wednesday.
Helga Ying, American Eagle Outfitters vice president of external engagement and social responsibility, said the initiative with Make It Right “underscores our commitment to eliminate waste and preserve vital resources, while enabling our customers to become involved in our sustainability efforts and to truly close the loop on the textile waste cycle.”
Ying went on to say that the “more we engage our customers, the more denim we will collect, ultimately reducing textile waste and increasing our ability to build low-cost, sustainable homes in our communities.” In the U.S., textile recycling has plenty of room to expand: currently, textiles represent about 15 percent of all solid waste that is recycled from the waste stream, according to data compiled by Statista, and industry analysts say that figure can be easily doubled.
Citing statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency, the retailer said “more than 24 billion pounds of unwanted clothing, shoes and other textiles end up in U.S. landfills annually.”
American Eagle Outfitters said it would collect unwanted and “unwearable denim,” which will be shredded and used in UltraTouch Denim Insulation as well as other building materials that will find its way into the affordable homes built by Make It Right. The non-profit agency was founded by Pitt to help displaced homeowners in New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It has since expanded into other cities across the U.S.
American Eagle Outfitters is not new to this type of sustainability efforts. The company said it has been in a partnership with I:Collect USA (I:CO) since January of last year to collect apparel and shoes for reuse.
Cesar Rodriguez, Make It Right’s products director, said the “jeans will provide safe, sustainable insulation — an important part of Make It Right’s high-performance, solar-powered homes. Better insulation increases energy-efficiency, leading to lower power bills for working families.”
In separate initiatives, Cotton Incorporated has also worked with retailers on recycling programs. In 2011 the group launched “Cotton. From Blue to Green” and has introduced denim recycling programs with a variety of companies since.
Earth Day was created on April 20, 1970 and over the past few years has expanded ino a weeklong recognition by communities across the globe. Schools, municipalities, non-profits and businesses plan special events and cleanups as well as launch efforts to increase awareness about the environment. More recently the topic of climate change has captivated communities — and is now impacting businesses too.
In a separate report today from Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services, the company said “while recent history shows that natural catastrophes may have not been a major rating factor on corporate credit quality in the past, their effect in the future may increase considerably as we experience more frequent and extreme climatic events.”
Analysts said its “rated companies have been able to mitigate any negative impact through a combination of liquidity management, insurance protection, disaster risk management, and post-event recovery measures. But we believe these measures could become considerably less effective in future.”