Recycled Pairs Project
Our project incorporated relevant R Strategies:
- Refuse: our period underwear enables menstruating people to refuse single-use disposables by offering a reusable alternative.
- Rethink: we design products for longevity and durability to perform for all types of bodies and flows, by creating for a broad audience we can make greater impact.
- Reduce: As part of our Preferred Material Standard, priority is given to fibres and materials that have lesser environmental impact in the production, use and end-of-life stages than alternatives.
- Re-use: Our products are reusable. We test our absorbent lining for durability to testing to 100 washes to ensure performance.
- Recycle: Recycling is challenging for period underwear.
In Australia underwear is not accepted as a general feedstock for recyclers. We designed our project to dig deeper and find scalable solutions. SDG 12 Responsible Consumption and Production was central to our thinking around a scalable EoL pathway for our product.
In Australia almost 204 million underwear items are imported into Australia every year, with no avenue besides landfill. The Recycled Pairs Pilot is at a time when Australia is going through a textile end of life evolution. The value of textiles destined for downcycling only quickly becomes a significant textile waste volume. Our research and industry conversations identified the complexity of products reliant on blended fabrics particularly when they included elastane as many pieces of underwear, bathers or active wear do. Our project demonstrated that the cost of recycling for a direct-to-consumer brand exceeded the cost of the product when logistics for return the product were included. And jumped significantly when washing and drying of the products prior to being sent for recycling was included. Due to concerns around hygiene from period underwear all products were required to be laundered and inspected by the recycler prior to acceptance. Key project learnings were not the technical challenges but the behaviour change required of the recycling industry to process underwear. This change in mindset played out with customers who provided feedback that the responsibility of disposing a garment thoughtfully at the end of use laid with the brand, be this completely true, or rather a shared responsibility, still requires further discussion. The impact of exploring end of life options for underwear and period underwear is in the scale of textile waste important. Perhaps it is these intimate products that we would feel most uncomfortable think of being strewn across the landscape.
Breaking down perceptions around the difficulty of underwear recycling was an important part of Modibodi’s goal in creating the Recycled Pairs Project. For the Modibodi business it has pushed us to review all inputs of our product – can we improve the durability further, can we absorb more period fluid with a thinner lining, can we create a design that works for more bodies to ensure there is a reusable alternative for more of the population, can we collaborate on fibres that will provide additional environmental impacts.