Setting an example for a sustainable value chain in Tunisia.

About a year ago, we reported on our biggest recycling project to date. The pilot, which started back in 2020, has now come to an end, and we are really proud to deliver the results.

The SwithMed program is an EU-funded project in which we've collaborated with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) to decrease environmental footprints within our production process at two of our productions facilities in Tunisia. This is, of course, a way for us to increase sustainability within our supply chain. But also make better use of production seconds.

A study conducted by UNIDO found that Tunisia's clothing industry generates over 31,000 tons of pre-consumer textile waste each year. And approximately 50% is cotton waste. Two of our production facilities in Tunisia are responsible for more than half of our production value. With that in mind, we saw great potential to investigate the possibility of turning production seconds into denim for new jeans in these production facilities.

Production seconds are the garments that don't meet quality standards. The post-production treatment may be faulty, stitching may not be quite right, the cutting is a bit off. Some of these garments can be sold, but many go to waste. So, in a push to further our sustainability work within our supply chain and close loops, we were able to turn 6,530 pairs of production seconds were into 16,000 new pairs of jeans with a composition of 20% of recycled cotton.

When pre-consumer textile waste is recycled, the waste is transported from Tunisia to either Europe or Asia. Not only does this increase co2-emissions, but it also causes up to two-thirds of the total cost of recycled denim. In this project, the entire recycling and remanufacturing process took place within a 180-kilometer radius, reducing both cost and the carbon footprint.

"With a 'high-value recycling concept,' we set an example on the potential for a completely local recycling value chain in Tunisia," says Roberta De Palma, Chief Technical Advisor from UNIDO. "We also demonstrate how to recycle pre-consumer textile waste into new garment products instead of downcycling it into lower value products. Recycling locally helps retain the value in Tunisia while positioning the Tunisian industry on the global market as a future partner with a supply chain that can produce more sustainable denim," adds De Palma.

"We have been looking for a smart resource-use solution for our production seconds stock, and hope this can help 'close the loop, 'avoiding textile waste from landfill and at the same time replace virgin materials in our jeans," says Eliina Brinkberg, Environmental Manager at Nudie Jeans.

"We are looking into the possibility of using cutting scraps as well, to try to use as much of the waste from our production as possible," adds Brinkberg.