Mud Jeans: Designing the Ultimate Pair of Recyclable Jeans

Overcoming the current recycling barriers for jeans by keeping recycling in mind from the start

case study

The Challenge

What if we all cleaned up our own messes? This simple question was how MUD Jeans was started. A modern, fashionable clothing brand with a positive environmental impact, they are the only brand that works completely according to the principles of the circular economy. In 2013 they introduced their ‘Lease A Jeans’ concept, an innovative approach to offering guilt-free consumption. Instead of purchasing a pair of their jeans consumers can lease them for a low monthly cost. This allows the consumer to switch out the jeans for a new pair whenever they want to upgrade their wardrobe and ensures that MUD Jeans remains the owners of the raw materials so that their jeans can be recycled. However, they still have a few obstacles to overcome to achieve a zero waste recycling process.

“…making clothes last longer is definitely an important part of a circular economy…” – Dr. Kate Goldsworthy, Design Researcher at the Textiles Futures Research Centre

Standard fibre type, common colour, consistent product specifications are all encompassed in a pair of classic denim jeans, making them packed with closed-loop potential! Yet, when each pair is sent for recycling, up to 35% of the product is disposed of when the hardware-heavy waist is separated from the pant legs. The waist portion, complete with rivets, buttons and zippers is, for the most part, sent to be incinerated or downcycled into materials used for such things as insulation for car roofs. Dyestuffs, elastic, stitching, pocket lining and care labels can all complicate and contaminate the recycling process even further. With this in mind, MUD Jeans set out to design the ultimate pair of recyclable jeans.


The Approach

During the signature event of our Circle Textiles Programme, Beyond Green, organised by Circle Economy and the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, MUD Jeans was brave enough to put their real-life zero waste challenge on the table. Together with experts and ambitious AMFI students, they knuckled down and combined their brainpower in an intense 2.5 hour circular fashion hackathon.

“So the loop is actually closing already, it’s up to all of us to jump into it and get onto this incredible cycle here, bring our entire industry into it and move forward with increasing momentum” – Isaac Nichelson, Chief Sustainability and Marketing Officer at Recover

Once the current barriers for recycling a complete pair of jeans, including the zipper, pockets and buttons, were addressed, the group took a good look at how the jeans could be redesigned. Right off the bat, the traditional zipper was replaced with buttons. Additionally all buttons on the jeans were redesigned to be removable so that consumers could not only personalise their jeans but also play a role in the disassembly process. Once the jeans are no longer being used by the consumer they can return the jeans for recycling, but only after they have removed and saved their buttons for their next purchase. This innovative solution could take MUD Jeans one step closer to creating the ultimate pair of recyclable jeans.


This visual was created by Circle Economy’s visual designer Kay van ‘t Hof. Click the case studies below to see the visuals and read the results from the other three Beyond Green hackathon challenges.

As a part of our member community, MUD Jeans shares in our ambition to make the circular economy a reality.
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