Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Patagonia and my trusted Capline Zip T - Common Threads Recycling Program

Last Friday morning found me rock climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon as the sun came up over the Wasatch Mountains. Since it was a bit breezy, I had donned my Capaline Zip T which has seen more backcountry ski days and climbing adventures than any other piece of gear I own. As I was sitting at the belay ledge on the second pitch I noticed that this trusted zip T was starting to show the miles by a hole or two and a couple of snags. The collar is tattered on the edges, no doubt a silent way of telling the rest of the outdoor world about the many miles of adventure I've been on.

So there I was, perched up high on a rock wall thinking about the day I'll retire my beloved Capiline, not knowing how to part with it. Little did I know that Patagonia wanted my underwear, and my zip T.

Friday afternoon Patagonia, in partnership with Teijin (whose motto is "Human Chemistry, Human Solutions") announce the launch of the Common Threads Recycling Program effective on Sept. 12, 2005 where consumers like me can send Patagonia, via mail or store drop off, my old trusted tattered on the collar zip T Capiline and they will ship it back to Japan (in the same containers that the Capiline arrives in - often empty on the return to Japan) where they will be able to make new polyester fiber from my old Capiline. According to Patagonia and Teijin -
...this will result in an energy savings of 76% and a CO2 emissions reduction of 71% versus creating that fiber from new raw material.

The most mentionable thing about the press conference was the enthusiasm for the program and the heavy dose of reality displayed by Patagonia president Michael Crooke.
We recognize that everything we make pollutes – and most of it eventually ends up in landfills. Moving forward, with our customers’ help, the 1.3 million Capiline pieces we sell each year will potentially live on in perpetuity. Our goal is to take responsibility for every product we make. This includes responsibility for the fibers a garment is made of, as well as what happens to a product at the end of its useful life. Garment recycling is simply our first step towards a truly environmentally sound process.

The question remains - will consumers make the effort to mail in or drop off their Capiline or will they just toss it in the garbage after it's torn and tattered beyond use? I suppose that this same question was posed when recycling tin, aluminum, cardboard and other household items commenced in the early 90's in my Portland Oregon neighborhood. Patagonia, and it's retailers like Backcountry.com may need to work together to find ways to make this process of recycling clothing as seamless as purchasing said clothing.

I for one will rest easy knowing my beloved zip T won't end up in a landfill but may find a new home with another outdoor enthusiast after a trip to Japan for a recycle adventure of its own.

Treehugger ran their version of this story after we posted this here. It's worth the read to check them out.

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