G-Star RAW: Measuring the Potential Impact of Denim Recycling

February 3, 2017
Case Studies

The Challenge

Proving the business and environmental case for the high value (textile-to-textile) recycling of denim.

The Approach

In 2016, G-Star RAW joined Circle Economy to collaborate on creating a hands-on, business-driven approach to close the textiles loop. Together with Wieland Textiles and Recover, G-Star and Circle Economy started a pilot project to try and prove the business and environmental case for high value (textile-to-textile) recycling of denim.  

The goal of the pilot project was to re-introduce denim goods returned to G-Star and create new denim fabrics that can compete with virgin cotton denim on price, quality, and aesthetics at a fraction of the environmental impact. In order to do this, G- Star selected one of their top selling denim fabrics and set out to incorporate recycled content in the making of that fabric. Their intent was to extend the future impact of this project beyond a single capsule collection and make recycled denim part of the sourcing strategy in the long term.

“We partnered with Circle Economy with the ambition to investigate further the potential for closed loop business models for G-Star. The Circle Economy assessment was critical for us because we wanted to understand the business case of high value recycling of G-Star returned inventory goods. As a result, we now have a better understanding of the process and can take informed decisions in closing the loop of these goods.”

- Frouke Bruinsma, Director Corporate Responsibility G-Star RAW

Key Learnings

Results from this pilot show that at the present moment, recycled denim fabric has a price premium of 12.5% compared to its virgin equivalents. On the technical side, the pilot shows that a maximum of 30% recycled fibres could be used in the recycled yarn in order for it to retain the needed strength for weaving and finishing.

Additionally, the impact analysis that was performed shows that a recycled denim fabric with only 12% recycled content already has a much lower environmental impact than its virgin equivalent: water consumption can be reduced by 9,8%, energy consumption by 4,2% and CO2 emissions could be cut by 3,8%.


Our Circle Textiles Program has a unique focus on end-of-life and whole-systems redesign. The ultimate goal of the program is to achieve a zero-waste industry, by developing and establishing a commercial and scalable model for closing the loop on post-industrial, pre-consumer and post-consumer textiles. We collaborate closely with members of our member network and our community of collectors, sorters, recyclers, brands and cities to develop groundbreaking pilot projects, that can create best practices for the future.

To learn more about how your company can become a member of the Circle Textiles community contact us!

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