Upbeat on Recycled Down
As Demand Increases, So Do Performance, Transparency and Scalability.
The landscape of recycled down is changing as momentum builds around circularity throughout the textile supply chain and spills over as brands heighten “reuse” themed storytelling marketed to consumers. Recent industry achievements reflect this new environment, bringing energy and innovation to end-of-life product solutions and raising the recycled down profile within both the outdoor arena and lifestyle apparel sectors.
A broader supply chain is also taking shape. Seeing opportunity, more companies are entering the field specializing in collection, sorting and extraction of raw materials. This is particularly the case in Asia, where a marketplace for recycled down has been limited.
Recycled down is not new. However, this season represents a turning point. Backed by today’s greater emphasis on extending the life of this natural fiber, the latest recycled down products offer higher fill power, improved aesthetic value, enhanced transparency, and desired traceability features.
More bright spots are on the horizon, including collaboration to bring recycling down to scale and an effort to structure community alliance to drive circularity in the down business.
For the past year Downlite has been working with deBrand, a company specializing in reverse logistics and textile recycling, to establish an end-plan for down-filled garments. Downlite has been a player in the down recycling space for four years but the new relationship with deBrand, based in Vancouver, Canada, will push that initiative forward in a couple ways. For example, recycled down from garments, especially down from performance outdoor apparel, is higher-grade than recycled down from bedding and pillows. Traditionally, brands seeking to utilize recycled down had to settle for smaller clusters and lower fill power.
In addition, Downlite and deBrand are developing new machinery to do the extraction and bring garment down recycling to scale.
Improved traceability is another benefit. Lindsay Parrish, Downlite’s VP sales-outdoor, explains that because Downlite partner brands feature RDS-certified down in their garments, this certification can now be applied to Downlite recycled down as well. “Previously RDS could not be applied because the down from bedding and pillows came from unknown sources,” shared Parrish, adding that the new Downlite x deBrand recycling program looks to launch late Spring or early Summer 2021.
Recognizing the value of their performance down garments, many Downlite partner brands have held onto inventory which now will be available for recycling by deBrand. Going forward, Downlite partners will ship garments to the deBrand facility in Vancouver for extraction, and then transferred to Downlite’s plant to be refreshed for reuse.
“Previously recycled down was best for lifestyle apparel worn by urban warriors, but now with these improvements recycled down will perform in technical products,” Parrish noted.
Rise in Demand
“Down is already an incredibly sustainable ingredient sourced as a by-product of the food industry, but with a recent push toward circularity, recycled down has seen a meteoric return,” explained Daniel Uretsky, ALLIED Feather + Down president. He elaborated, “With the increased interest brands have seen towards the overall footprint of their products and the introduction of tools like the HIGG index, many are trying to use as many recycled materials as they can… including down. What many don’t realize is just how sustainable down already is, so we saw almost every European brand inquiring about it and wanting to convert certain product lines to recycled down.”
The company recently announced the launch of RENU:750, the pinnacle of Allied’s upcycling/recycling program for use in the most technical and luxury driven products. In a limited launch, RENU:750 is coming to consumers in Fall 2021 with just two partner brands: Jones Snowboards in the U.S.; and fashion brand Axel Arigato from the UK.
Allied partners have previously been able to rely on RENU:700 as the industry’s first Global Recycle Standard (GRS)-certified post-consumer recycled down, which guaranteed over 700 fill power, but with limitations on highly technical apparel.
“For us at Allied, our high fill power recycled down comes from very precise sourcing of the post consumer goods and the ability to carefully control every step of the process — from collection through separation,” Uretsky explained.
A broader supply chain is also taking shape. Seeing opportunity, more companies are entering the field specializing in collection, sorting and extraction of raw materials.
Allied initially developed this unique product with Jones Snowboards founder Jeremy Jones to find a solution that would fit the needs for extreme technical performance, the lowest impact on the planet, and with animal welfare at the forefront.
Jones, who is also the founder of Protect Our Winters, a non-profit climate change organization, said, “Finding a material that perfectly balances performance, durability and sustainability is a real challenge, and that’s why we are so excited about the Re-Up puffy. It sets a new standard for sustainable technical performance thanks to ALLIED RENU:750.”