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Why recycling your Modibodi undies will do more than just keep them out of landfill

What do you do with your old, well-loved undies when you’ve finished with them?  

Most underwear will end up in landfill and at the moment, there’s not really another option. We’d like to change that.  Modibodi loves a challenge and so we’ve joined forces with the recycling industry to pilot a recycling program to turn your old undies into a new material for an entirely new use.  It’s called The Recycled Pairs Project.  

How we do it – Redesign, Reuse, Recycle 

First, we design our products for longevity, considering the performance and sustainability of each fibre we use to create the best product with the best end-of-life options we can. Across our styles we use biodegradable materials like wool, bamboo or cotton, along with recycled fibres.  

Second, our products are designed to perform so they can be reused and reused for years before they reach the end of their useful life.  

Lastly, we are putting lots of energy into exploring recycling options. Landfill is the last place we want your well-loved Modibodi underwear to end up and while we do have a biodegradable range, this isn’t an option for everyone.  

92% told us that you’d like to be able to recycle your Modibodi undies. Our Recycled Pairs Project is the first step towards a recycling solution.   

Why it really matters  

Generally, underwear and period undies like Modibodi are not accepted for recycling because they fall into the “too hard” basket. Underwear is perceived as being unhygienic, difficult to collect and you need a lot of fabric to turn it into another useful fibre or new product. In 2018/19 Australians purchased 204 million pairs of underwear, that’s a LOT of material going to landfill.1 It’s estimated that 6,000 kg of textile ends up in Australian landfills every 10 minutes.2 with globally, only 13% of clothing recycled a year.3    

Recycling can be a complex business. Some materials work really well - such as aluminium. Cans are designed and produced to be recycled with the metal going back into making new cans.  The textile industry is far more complicated. 

One of the greatest challenges for textile recyclers is that underwear can be made of mixed fabrics, include metal clips and clasps and contain particularly difficult fibres to work with such as elastane for stretch, which makes it hard to separate and recycle into a valuable new material.  

Challenge One – Textile Recycling 

Many people think clothes they put out for recycling are turned back into textiles but actually only 1% of textiles are recycled back into textiles. Most t-shirts, pants and jumpers you send to be recycled are shredded to be made into materials such as insulation, stuffing or other inputs. 

We spoke to a lot of different recyclers to find a way to recycle Modibodi undies.  

First, we looked at chemical recycling to turn it back into a new fabric. This technology is so new hardly anyone is doing it, and if they are, it’s only for cotton and polyester fabrics. The elastane in our pants shut this door because it’s incompatible with the chemical recycling machines.  

We then spoke to mechanical recyclers who shred the material to create new materials like insulation, carpet and engineered bio-composites such as green tiles. This sounded promising – our pants, are made of quality materials such as Merino wool, bamboo cellulose, cotton, elastane and recycled nylon – and these can be shredded! 

Once we had the technology confirmed the challenge became how to collect enough underwear? Who would sort it? Where would it be recycled?  

These questions narrowed down our search to run our recycling pilot in Australia.   

Challenge Two – Perceptions 

Some people asked about cleanliness. Would period underwear be unhygienic for sorting? We did the research and found that period underwear posed no more risk than other clothing sent to recycling. Customers need to provide them clean and dry.  

You can make a difference 

We’ve teamed up with two amazing organisations to pilot the recycling of Modibodi undies. Our partners will sort and then shred your old Modibodi undies, turning it into a composite material (more on this in a later blog!). 

Not only will your Modibodi undies be made into a new material, but the pilot will also provide us - and the industry - information on how best to recycle underwear and how to design underwear in the future that is easy to recycle.  

Can I be involved? 

No, sorry! We wrapped up the pilot on 12 October 2022. Keep an eye out on our socials for when we reveal what the old Modibodi undies will be recycled into! 

 

1 Australian Fashion Council. National Clothing Product Stewardship Scheme Clothing Data Report. P 9. Product Stewardship - AFC (ausfashioncouncil.com) 
2 ABC War on Waste. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-10/sustainable-fashion-tips/12038770 
3 Ellen MacArthur Foundation. A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future.  
https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/a-new-textiles-economy