Blue Jean Baby

In a somewhat sad but predictable narrative, I learned today of a company called Bonded Logic that recycles post-industrial denim, scraps and clippings from the manufacturing of blue jeans, and converts it into insulation for use in the construction of houses.

The process begins with a significant amount of processing, to convert the denim from acid wash pleated jumpsuits back into its original loose fiber form. From there it is put into bales and treated with a borate solution that makes the fibers mold and mildew resistant as well as pest repellant, though somehow humanly non-toxic. From there, the fibers are bonded with heat into a solid batting. The company maintains that this is a zero waste manufacturing process, so that all excess material is re-processed and nothing is thrown away.

This company employs many environmentally friendly ideas like recycling, non-toxic chemicals and zero-waste. According to their website, use of this insulation is also highly beneficial to builders in helping them to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification by the US Green Building Council. This finished product is marketed under the name UltraTouch Natural Cotton Fiber Insulation.

I say this narrative is sad because the entire process and its marketing has been funded by Cotton Incorporated, an association of American growers of cotton and importers of cotton products. They have sponsored a project to raise awareness for the new technology called "Cotton. From Blue to Green" which is essentially a drive for old blue jeans from both industrial and consumer sources. In 2007 nearly 36,000 denim garments were accepted and turned into insulation which will be donated to Habitat for Humanity in constructing homes in communities impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Last year insulation was provided for 70 homes to benefit hurricane affected families. And much as this is good work on the part of industry and philanthropy, the whole program has been admittedly instituted to endorse the profitability of and increase the demand for American cotton. What.

My head is swimming, to be sure. Things like this get so sticky when you read between the lines. Still, it's nice to know that the industry has been able to internally fuel the development of this sort of recycling technology. Hip Hip for Capital. Cotton certainly owes Black families in Louisiana more than insulation for their houses, but it is a start.

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