As you might have noticed, there’s a new section on our website called “Make textiles circular!”. Just like the concept of the circular economy, we’re on a mission to make the textile industry circular. As part of the European Union’s aim of achieving a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the circular economy package that the European Union adopted in 2018 has set out that all member states must collect textile waste separately by 2025. Even if the circular model might seem challenging at first, in comparison to the linear option of produce-consume-disregard, it is the most rewarding and environmentally friendly option. What’s more, it’s not that heavy on your wallet, either!
Therefore, together with the European Commission Representative in Estonia, the Ministry of the Environment, Uuskasutuskeskus, Hoolekandeteenused AS, the Hea Hoog Foundation, and the Department of Prisons, we have initiated the Valuable upcycling’ project, as part of the “Make textiles circular!” initiative, in order to highlight textile waste and how, by applying circular design, textile waste becomes once again a product. This can also give a voice to those who are often left unheard and forgotten by society.
One of the highlighted materials in this project was denim, and jeans as a product itself, which has one of the highest environmental impacts a garment can have. Denim is made out of cotton – a crop which in most cases is a highly polluting crop and uses major amounts of water to produce. Further, the dyeing process often uses harmful chemicals, and may release carcinogenic amines. Another issue is that, with distressed jeans in fashion, they way jeans are treated to give them the “worn” look, reduces the lifespan of the jeans remarkably. So, as a tip, we’d say, instead of throwing away your jeans and increasing the burden on our planet, please consider upcycling and recycling them. Denim is a versatile and durable fabric which can be used for various purposes, not only jeans and jackets.
To showcase this, we designed six home textile products, out of which five are made out of denim. The ‘Upcycling’ project covers the whole manufacturing process – from the collection of used materials from Uuskasutuskeskus, to designing the products, and finally to producing them in Tallinn Prison and Hea Hoog Foundation centers all over Estonia. We collected denim from Uuskasutuskeskus to produce aprons, oven cloths, textile bags, decorative pillows, and small rugs in Hea Hoog Foundation work centers, and home textiles to produce colorful quilts in Tallinn Prison.
The project isn’t only about creating awareness around textile waste – it is just as much about its social aspect. It’s very seldom that we hear about the opinions of people with special needs, or people who are incarcerated. We wanted to create a bigger discussion and include all parts of society, which is why we partnered with the Hea Hoog Foundation, which works on building a more cohesive society by providing an opportunity for people with special needs to be employed and to work, and which collaborates with Tallinn Prison’s female detainees unit. We believe that prisoners have the right to express their creativity just as much as we do. After all, we’re destroying the planet at their’s and their children’s expense.
This project was showcased as an exhibition at the 15th Tallinn Design Festival this year, and the final products will furnish the new AS Hoolekandeteenused homes which will be opened this year.