Blog - How accurate are our clothing labels?
We all know it, that scratchy clothing label in the neck or side seam of a new garment. The label tells us where our garment has been produced, at what temperature we need to wash and iron the garment and what textile raw materials (e.g. cotton, polyester, polyamide, viscose or wool) it contains. According to European legislation, every new garment must have such a label, on which the indication of raw materials must be at least 95 percent accurate.
Here at Wolkat customers often ask us what the composition of the textile we sell is. My answer to that is always that (unfortunately) we can't be 100 percent sure. In order to understand why this is, we have to take a closer look at the first steps in the process at Wolkat.
When the bales of no longer wearable textile waste arrive at our sorting department, they are first sorted by raw material and then by colour. This is done by hand and I am always amazed how quickly the hands and eyes of our trained sorters can determine what the textile raw materials are of a garment that they only touch and look at for 2 seconds. Checking all garment labels by hand is not cost-effective as it would take too much time and in addition, for many garments the labels have been removed or have become unreadable in the washing machine.
If you look at different labels of the garments in your closet, you will see that a garment rarely consists of 100% the same textile material. Raw materials are often mixed to give a garment the desired properties. For example, your jeans are often made of around 96% cotton and 4% elastane: the cotton provides strength, while the elastane gives the denim elasticity, making it easier for you to get into your skinny jeans.
Because of the large amount of garments that has been made by mixing these textile raw materials, and because Wolkat manually sorts the textile waste, it is not possible to make yarn from recycled textile waste consisting of 100% the same textile raw material. Subsequently the Wolkat fabric, woven with the recycled yarn, is also a mix of raw materials. We can say whether a particular Wolcat yarn has a high percentage of for example, acrylic or cotton, but what percentage this is and what other raw materials it contains can never be said with absolute certainty. Unfortunately, companies often judge us on this non 100% raw material guarantee. There is often a comparison made with new garments and textiles while it is thought that the raw material statement on the label is 100% correct.
I also used to think that the clothing label was accurate with regard to European legislation until I read the results of a study carried out by Circle Economy last week (Report Clothing Labels: accurate or not?). It states that only 77% of all labels in clothing made from a single textile raw material are accurate (with a margin of 5%). In the case of the earlier mentioned textile material mixes, the labels are even less accurate: only 41% are correct. That means, giving a 100% guarantee based on the lables as to exactly which textile raw materials are used in clothing is apparently not always possible, regardless of whether it the textiles are recycled or new. For Wolkat it would help if there were clear legislation on how recycled textile raw materials should be listed on the clothing label with the possibilities of current sorting possibilities taken into account.