Israfil Alam Rana,Deputy Manager (R&D)
When you’re finished with your favorite pair of jeans, what do you do with them? If you’re like most people, you give them to a younger family member, donate them to a local charity, such as Goodwill, sell them on consignment or throw them away. Unfortunately, this last option is one we all choose too often- each year, almost 24 billion pounds (nearly 11 million metric tons) of clothing including jeans end up in landfills, where they can remain, depending on the material used and the conditions in the trash heap, for years. That’s not a very green way to handle your blues.
Luckily, there’s a new use for old jeans that protects our planet and improves living conditions inside your home. It’s known as denim insulation, and it’s been finding its way into some high-profile buildings in recent months.
What exactly is denim insulation? Is it, literally, blue jeans turned into batting, or pieces of thermal insulation? The short answer is yes, although it’s slightly more complicated than that. A company by the name of Bonded Logic developed the material over 35 years and owns patents to the manufacturing process. The end product of that process is Ultra Touch Insulation, which contains 80 percent post-consumer recycled natural fibers- fibers derived directly from denim jeans. Many other companies, such as Applegate Insulation and Le Relais, for instance, have dabbled in denim insulation and will continue to do so as this insulation trend grows.
One notable program is “Cotton. From Blue to Green,” launched in 2006 by Cotton Incorporated. The program targets college students, educating them about the renewable attributes of denim and encouraging them to donate their old jeans to the cause. Students can drop their jeans in campus collection boxes or at participating retailers, such as G by GUESS specialty stores or American Eagle Outfitters. The donated denim goes directly to Bonded Logic, which then transforms it into UltraTouch insulation. Through 2010, the program had collected more than 600,000 pairs of jeans, leading to the production of 1,485,000 square feet (138,000 square meters) of denim insulation [source: Cotton. From Blue to Green].
Levi Strauss & Co. donated 200,000 pairs of jeans to help insulate the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. That’s a lot of blue to make a green building, which is why installing denim insulation is just the beginning.
Recycled denim insulation, also known as natural cotton fiber insulation, is a high-performance insulation that’s made from scraps and clippings from the manufacture of denim clothing. This insulation is suitable for residential and commercial use in the same places as fiberglass or mineral wool batts would be used—between open roof rafters, ceiling joists and wall studs.
Of course, you can’t simply take off your jeans and stuff them into your walls, attics or crawl spaces. They must be recycled and prepared in a specific process before they earn the title of insulation. The manufacturing of recycled denim insulation is a zero-waste process. First, scraps of denim fabric are processed to achieve a loose-fiber form that resembles cotton candy. Next, the material is treated for resistance to fire, mold, mildew and pests, blended with bonding fibers and heated. Finally, it’s cut into batts. Any scraps from the manufacturing process can be shredded and returned to the raw material supply.
Recycled denim insulation offers these advantages over traditional fiberglass insulation:
Sustainability: It typically contains 80+ percent recycled content. Also, the natural cotton fibers are 100 percent recyclable at the end of the insulation’s usable life.
Eco-friendliness: By using post-industrial material, companies that produce recycled denim insulation divert waste destined for landfills. One company estimates that it diverts 200 tons a month. In addition, the manufacturing process for this insulation requires much less energy than the manufacturing of fiberglass insulation.
Excellent thermal performance: Using recycled denim insulation results in higher HVAC efficiency and lower energy bills.
Better indoor acoustics: Denim insulation’s acoustic ratings are about 30 percent higher than those for traditional insulation, creating a quieter interior for homeowners.
Better indoor air quality: Recycled denim contains no volatile organic compounds or formaldehyde, which off-gas and pollute a home’s indoor air. This insulation creates a three dimensional infrastructure that traps, isolates and controls sound waves. Effectively reduce airborne sound transmission including traffic, airplanes, radios, television, and conversation.
Improved health and safety: Installing recycled denim doesn’t irritate the skin or the respiratory tract. Moreover, the product requires no carcinogenic warning label. Typically, this insulation is treated with an EPA-approved borate solution that provides a Class A fire-resistance rating, which certifies a product as effective against severe exposure to external fires, not readily flammable and not a contributor to the spread of fire. It’s also treated with an EPA-registered fungal inhibitor for additional protection against mold, mildew and pests.
This day is not so far when we will use most of our denim within our surroundings. Denim Smart Jacket, Denim car insulation, Denim sports item, Denim ornaments will grab you soon.