Is Recycled Cotton Vegan + Sustainable?

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 11/03/22 •  8 min read

Is recycled cotton vegan and sustainable? These are questions every ethical consumer asks. Here is how buying recycled cotton will impact you, the environment, animals and laborers. 

is recycled cotton vegan and sustainable

Fabric, materials and textiles are things we consume often. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on recycled cotton.

You are going to learn all about recycled cotton’s vegan and sustainability status. Additionally, the following info will include recycled cotton advantages and disadvantages for your home, whether recycled cotton is a natural fiber, biodegradable…or perhaps even destructive!

After learning if recycled cotton is vegan and sustainable you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you shop.

This post is all about learning if recycled cotton is vegan and sustainable.

Is Recycled Cotton Vegan And Sustainable?

HOME

Versatility: pros recycled cotton is absorbent, breathable, can be good for sensitive skin, dries quickly, easier to clean than wool, machine washable, soft, versatile (used to make clothing, bedding, t-shirts, jeans, underwear, socks, bath towels, pillow cases, curtains, etc.) | cons recycled cotton may bleed, fade, shrink, wrinkle

Affordability: cons recycled cotton is moderately affordable, prices will vary

Recycled cotton is…

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ENVIRONMENT

Fiber source: natural, recycled cotton is made using post-industrial and post-consumer cotton waste

Biodegradable: yes, recycled cotton is biodegradable, cotton is one of the most biodegradable fabrics there is, especially if it is 100% cotton, when composting cotton may biodegrade within as little as 1 week but average decomposition times are around 5 months

Destruction: low, recycled cotton is a more sustainable alternative to both conventional and organic cotton, GOTS-certified recycled cotton is best to ensure high standards in production, helps reduce water and energy consumption, as well as help keep cotton clothes out of landfill

Recycled cotton is…

ANIMALS

Kills: none, recycled cotton production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, recycled cotton production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no pesticides are used when producing organic cotton, which spares ecosystems and wildlife from exposure to toxic chemicals 

Recycled cotton is…

LABORERS

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Recycled cotton…

What are recycled cotton uses?

Recycled cotton uses include making clothing, textiles, industrial items, polishing cloths, high-quality paper and much more.

What are some ethical vegan fashion brands that use recycled cotton?

Boyish, MUD Jeans and Nube are ethical vegan fashion brands that uses organic cotton.

recycled cotton may be durable.

durable, long lasting fabrics, materials and textiles

Is recycled cotton durable or delicate? Recycled cotton may be durable and long lasting when cared for properly.

For every 5 garments produced, the equivalent of 3 end up in a landfill or incinerated each year!

One reason for such wastefulness society’s ever growing desire to acquire. Fast fashion (creating low-priced items at high volumes) is problematic for a number of reasons and promotes the attitude that clothing is nearly disposable.

But another component of such a quick turnaround on clothing is because it’s just not lasting long enough. Snags, stains, warping and shrinkage render items unusable and unacceptable for the  donation pile. Avoid such problems by buying better quality, more durable, long lasting materials. Timeless wardrobe favorites that last for years and years are more sustainable and reduce the need for replacements. 

Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles burns or goes to landfills…

Keep minimalism in mind and buy less, borrow and buy items second hand. Thrift shops offer many inexpensive, unique finds that have already proven to stand the test of time!

recycled cotton is sustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Is recycled cotton eco friendly and sustainable? Yes, recycled cotton is sustainable.

Materials from animals are natural fibers and biodegradable unless heavily treated with chemicals. However, they are not at all eco-friendly or sustainable due to the overwhelming strain on natural resources; the water needed, food needed and land usage that must happen for such abundant amounts of animals to live.

Animal agriculture is not good for the environment, human health and of course, the animals themselves. Thus, animal derived, non-vegan materials are not only cruel and inhumane but environmentally unsustainable. 

That’s not to say that all vegan materials are sustainable. There are many vegan yet unsustainable fabrics, materials and textiles. Most of us don’t realize that washing one synthetic garment releases about 2,000 plastic microfibers which then enter the ocean and food chain…or that 30% of rayon and viscose used in fashion comes from endangered and ancient forests. So because a fabric is vegan it does not necessarily mean that it is sustainable, eco-friendly and so on. 

Natural fibers like cotton are actually really harmful IF they are not organic. How? Cotton seeds are often GMOs that require pesticides, which are extremely toxic! In fact, up to 16% of the world’s pesticides go to non-organic, GMO cotton farming every year. The chemicals degrade soil and pollute water as well as poison cotton pickers.

Wow! …So it’s time to start using sustainable fabrics, materials and textiles.

Read more about ‘What Makes Fabric Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’

recycled cotton is vegan.

vegan-material

Is recycled cotton vegan? Yes, recycled cotton is vegan.

Cows, sheep, alpacas, goats, ducks and foxes are animals commonly subject to exploitation for their skins, hair or feathers. In fact, BILLIONS of them die every single year simply in the name of fashion. 

Before buying a pair of shoes, a sweater, a purse, check the materials. Common and unfortunately popular animal-derived materials include:

These materials often come from places like India and China where there can be NO animal welfare laws or enforcement. But if the item does come from a more developed area of the world, such as the United States or Europe, that animal was likely a victim of factory farming. In such overcrowded farms there is confinement, disease and animals sometimes live their entire lives indoors, never seeing the light of day.

Material from animals may involve slaughtering like leather and fur production, for instance. In regards to wool or feathers, animals struggle while workers hold them down and beat them in order to shear their coat or rip feathers from skin. This leaves them bloody and wounded in pain. 

Dressing and decorating vegan is easier than ever with this: Vegan Fabrics, Materials and Textiles List

recycled cotton is a material that may or may not have labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is recycled cotton a material that has laborer issues? At this time, there are no known specific reports of worker mistreatment regarding recycled cotton but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Recycled cotton may or may not have labor issues.

Did you know that the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? Whether agriculture involves crops or animals, the labor behind each and every product made from cotton, leather, wool, etc. cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers.

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, sweatshops and child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence. Unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives simply by being mindful to buy items that are certified fair trade. 

This post was all about whether recycled cotton is vegan and sustainable. 

Sources:

Sew Guide: Fabric glossary
Textile School: Textile fabric types
The SAC’s Higg Materials Sustainability Index
Fabric of the world: What are biodegradable fabrics?
The Spruce: Types of fabric A to Z: What are you wearing?
EDGE Fast Fact | Non-Biodegradable Clothes Take 20 to 200 Years to Biodegrade
Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future
Grandview Research: Synthetic Leather Market Worth $40.9 Billion By 2027 | CAGR: 4.4%

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.

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