Most of the water used in making jeans is for growing cotton.

With the goal of creating closed-loop technology to significantly reduce waste and water, Levi Strauss & Co. teamed with textile technology start-up Evrnu SPC to create what the companies are calling the “world’s first jean made from regenerated post-consumer cotton waste.”

Using a new type of technology, the companies took five discarded cotton T-shirts and transformed them into a pair of 511 jeans. The companies said this morning that the prototype “represents a future where textile waste is reduced considerably and cotton garments are continually regenerated to create a more sustainable world.” Compared to “virgin cotton” products, the prototype used 98 percent less water.

Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co., said this first prototype “represents a major advancement in apparel innovation. We have the potential to reduce by 98 percent the water that would otherwise be needed to grow virgin cotton while giving multiple lives to each garment.” Dillinger said the technology is still in its “early days,” but the application of it is promising as the company explores “the use of regenerated cotton to help significantly reduce our overall impact on the planet.”

Stacy Flynn, chief executive officer of Evrnu, said the company’s “aspiration is to build a pair of Levi’s jeans that are just as beautiful and strong as the original and we’re making great progress toward that goal.”

Levi Strauss said for its part, the collaboration with Evrnu is part of “a wider innovation and sustainability strategy” that includes its “Water Wellthread products, which consider social, environmental and economic sustainability factors.”

The companies noted that consumer waste is a growing concern with 13.1 million tons of textile waster produced annually — the bulk of which ends up in landfills. “Until now, there hasn’t been a viable solution that effectively transforms old clothes into new without compromising quality or strength,” the companies said, adding that in the life cycle of a pair of jeans, 68 percent of the total water used is for growing the cotton.

Dillinger said by “tackling water conservation through new fiber innovation, the apparel industry has the potential to significantly reduce its water footprint.”

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