What are circular scrubs and why do they matter?
We can’t describe what circular scrubs are without talking about circular fashion systems first. A circular fashion system is one where clothes last for as long as possible with no significant waste generated. The ultimate goal with circular fashion is to create clothes that cause no socio-economic or environmental harm. Garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained, and then upcycled to create new products or disposed of in a way that gives back to the Earth. Only clothes made from 100 percent natural fibres like wool or hemp will be completely compostable, so upcycling is a critical component of a circular system for many companies.
With this definition in mind, circular scrubs are scrubs that can be recycled at the end of their life. Since our scrubs aren’t made of compostable materials, we decided to create our own way to keep them circulating away from landfills. Before we explain how we do this, it’s important to understand why.
Circular Economies Reduce Waste
In our current economy, products are created with materials from the earth, and then eventually thrown away as waste. In a circular economy, the intent is to stop waste from being generated. Supporting a circular economy is one of the only tangible ways to fight the damage the fashion industry has done and continues to do.
The textile industry is responsible for 4 percent of global solid waste and 2.1 billion tonnes of CO₂e emissions per year, making it the third most polluting industry. In the US alone, 85 percent of textiles thrown away are dumped into landfills or burned. It's estimated that 92 million tonnes of textile waste are created annually by the fashion industry, and textile waste is expected to increase by around 60 percent between 2015 and 2030, with an additional 57 million tonnes of waste being generated annually.
Think about how many medical professionals there are in the world, and then consider the number of scrubs that likely end up in landfills every year. Scrubs get put through the ringer. They need to be replaced often for hygiene purposes, and are worn through quickly if they’re made from cheap materials. We can’t present any statistics reflecting scrubs waste, but have a hunch that the global number is high. The solution to this problem is to create premium scrubs that last longer through every wash cycle, and that can be recycled at the end of their life to make new scrubs.
Circular Economies Reduce Plastic Use
Every year, over 300 million tonnes of plastic are created, and 8 million tonnes of it are predicted to end up in oceans. Over 60 percent of clothing is now made from petroleum-based plastic fibers like nylon, polyester, and spandex. Clothing made from plastic won’t decompose, so any petroleum-based garment that ends up in a landfill will remain there almost indefinitely.
We aren’t against using plastics, we just think they should be used correctly. In a circular economy, scrubs made from plastics would be recycled at the end of their life instead of being thrown away. FOLDS scrubs are made from recycled materials, including post-consumer plastic, carpets, and airbags. At the end of their life, they can be upcycled to create new FOLDS scrubs. This means new plastic doesn’t have to be produced as frequently, which helps keep plastic out of landfills and cuts down on the need for petroleum. In the fashion industry, 342 million barrels of petroleum are used annually to produce plastic-based fibers for textiles.
Pellets made from post-consumer plastic, carpets, and airbags are melted and pulled into yarn to make FOLDS scrubs.
One of the biggest arguments against the use of recycled plastic in the fashion industry is that washable items made from plastic will shed microfibres when washed. Microfibres are tiny pieces of plastic that fall off of clothes during washing cycles. A single load of laundry can release up to 700,000 microfibres, which eventually make their way into rivers and oceans.
FOLDS scrubs are at the forefront of emerging fabric technologies; we use less energy, no chemicals, zero water, and our scrubs shed zero microplastics into waterways.
FOLDS Wear's factory in Vancouver
FOLDS Wear: The World’s First Circular Scrubs
As the world’s first circular medical techwear company, protecting our customers is as equally important to us as protecting the environment. Our scrubs are dyed without the use of water, chemicals, or solvents. A set of traditional scrubs made from cotton or polyester consumes around 600 litres of water and produces 10 kg of CO₂ emissions. FOLDS scrubs are made from recycled materials, including post-consumer plastic, carpets, and airbags. Every FOLDS purchase saves 10kg of carbon emissions, 600 litres of water, and keeps 2 yards of fabric out of landfills. Plus, our fabric releases zero microfibres and microplastics into the environment. We’re even OEKO-TEX Confidence In Textiles Standard 100 certified! This means that our scrubs have been tested for harmful substances and are harmless for human health.
Recycling and repolymerizing old scrubs to make yarn for new scrubs means that:
- Less waste is generated
- Less waste ends up in landfills
- Fewer natural materials need to be created
- Less environmental damage from the creation of raw resources
Keep an eye out for our Full Circle Recycling program which launches soon! In the meantime, contact us when your scrubs are ready to be disposed of and we’ll work to collect them from you. Together we can work to reduce waste and microfibre pollution—one set of scrubs at a time.