Smartwool, the manufacturer of merino wool activewear says that socks will play a key role when it comes to meeting its strategic goal of making all products circular by 2030. The Denver, US-based firm has launched the Smartwool Second Cut Project which is designed to give products a “second cut” at life and will help create a more circular supply chain that extends the life of raw materials, presents a new sourcing stream, and reduces environmental impact. The project represents a significant pillar of the brand’s newly defined 10-year social impact goals and will be launching with an Earth Day timed sock take back event.
Although awareness around the importance of apparel circularity is growing with consumers, Smartwool says that socks are one of the most thrown-away pieces of apparel. This may in part be due to a lack of understanding—a recent Smartwool survey showed that while over 80 percent of respondents recycle their used clothing, they don’t engage the same way when it comes to socks as 46 percent are unaware of how to recycle them, resulting in 91 percent throwing away more than one pair of socks per year. This contributes to the larger circularity problem with textiles as a whole, which contributes about 11.3 tonnes of waste to landfills each year.
Given there is a gap in recycling textile articles like socks, and more than 97 percent of consumers are interested in recycling them, Smartwool has developed a way to move the needle towards a more circular economy, starting with socks.
“Through our research, we realized that consumers want to be more sustainable and recycle their socks, but don’t currently have the resources to be a part of the solution,” said Alicia Chin, Senior Manager Sustainability and social impact at Smartwool. “We are deeply invested in providing consumers with simple recycling solutions that make a difference towards a happier, healthier planet. While our goal is to reach total circularity across our product portfolio, there is obviously an urgent need for a recycling solution in the sock category, which is where we’re focusing our initial efforts.”
Smartwool is partnering with Material Return, a platform for custom circularity, on the Second Cut Project sock take back event. Starting on April 21st, Smartwool will collect used socks from any brand at specialty retailers across the US and online. These initial donations will be re-purposed into a filling for dog beds, which will be available for purchase at Smartwool.com during the 2021 holiday season.
“We’re excited to work with a brand like Smartwool that exemplifies the same environmental values as we do,” said Molly Hemstreet, Co-Executive Director at Material Return. “We also want to thank all our manufacturing partners who helped make it possible—especially the Carolina Textile District and Diamond Brand Gear. Through the Smartwool Second Cut Project sock take back event, we’re giving consumers an opportunity to support both environmental sustainability and innovative labor practices.”