15 May 2019

New BirdLife t-shirts are fighting back against fast fashion

BirdLife has joined forces with clothing company Teemill to launch t-shirts that can be recycled into new garments when they are worn out – the first initiative of its kind in fashion history. Is this the start of a new environmentally-friendly ‘circular’ fashion era?

These t-shirts can be recycled again and again © Teemill
These t-shirts can be recycled again and again © Teemill
By Jessica Law

Fashion can be a great way to express yourself or show your support for worthy causes. But today, it has transformed into a fast-paced, disposable industry that creates a staggering amount of waste. It’s estimated that over 100 billion items of clothing are made per year, yet a truck full of textiles is burned or buried in landfill every second. It is predicted that if the industry continues at its current furious pace, this waste will more than triple by 2050.

For the first time in fashion history, a new initiative is moving fashion away from its current linear model, where clothes start out in factories and end up in landfill, and making it circular. Anyone who buys, or has already bought, a BirdLife Teemill t-shirt can send it back when it is worn out. The fabric is washed, broken down by pioneering technology, and the fibres woven into brand new garments. In this way, the same garment can be recycled again and again.

“Slowing down fast fashion won't fix it, but when we took material people normally throw away at the end and made new products from it at the start, it changed everything. What we needed was the technology to make the reverse logistics of fashion possible and economical. That’s exactly what we’ve done,” explained Mart Drake-Knight, design engineer at Teemill.

It doesn’t just benefit the environment, but also the customer. When their garment is worn out, all they need to do is scan the barcode on the label and Teemill will send them a freepost coupon to return it to them at no cost. The customer is then given £5 off their next item – keeping the circle going.

“Customers are incentivised to keep the material flowing with money off their next purchase, Teemill benefits from lower material costs and the model is truly sustainable. It’s a circular fashion economy where everybody wins,” says Drake-Knight.

Teemill has been striving to make fashion sustainable for a long time. As well as being entirely plastic-free and organic, for years they have been using modern technology such as AI to make sure absolutely no stock goes to waste. When you order one of BirdLife’s Teemill t-shirts, it is printed in real-time in factories powered by renewable energy, seconds after it is ordered. Which means that there is never any unsold stock.

We hope that this pioneering new scheme will spark a revolution in the fashion industry, inspiring other companies to follow suit. We’re proud to be there at the start, and have launched a new design that features circling White Storks, birds that for a long time have symbolised renewal, since they return every spring from their migration journey to see in a brand new year.

Find out more at https://birdlife.teemill.com