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Dutch sustainable denim initiative uses blockchain for cotton traceability

denim jeans

The Denim Deal initiative partnered with Dutch cleantech company The Movement for its blockchain traceability solution Aware

The Denim industry faces some serious environmental challenges. It is estimated that 8,000 liters of water are used to produce a pair of jeans and that only 63% of production worldwide ends up being sold. In addition, only .1% of discarded material is reused in high quality applications. 

The Denim Deal is attempting to address the issue by promoting a circular economy in the denim industry. The aim is to get members from all across the value chain to work towards the use of recycled textile in all denim products as a new standard in the Dutch market. Denim Deal members include government departments, recycling firms and well known brands. Together they set the goal of incorporating at least 5% of recycled material into every pair of jeans produced within the Denim Deal’s network. 

Aware’s nanoparticle technology comes into play in proving that the final jeans products are made out of recycled material. More specifically, Aware is able to trace the origins of the cotton used in production. It claims to be the first technology in the world to trace recycled cotton.

The cultivation of cotton is one of the agricultural commodities that uses the largest amount of water in production. As demand for cotton does not seem to be slowing down any time soon, finding solutions to recycle existing material is essential to make the textile and fashion industry more sustainable. It is estimated that even if only 20% of jeans are made out of recycled cotton, the whole process will save up 750 liters of water per pair of jeans. 

The Movement’s Aware solution involves four steps. First, manufacturers activate Aware’s tracer in the recycled cotton by mixing the fiber with special microscopic tracer particles. The particles correspond to a secure digital passport that contains all the data on the specific recycled material, and the information on the passport is stored on blockchain. The yarn is then used to produce any product. A unique scanning device is used to scan the trace particles in the final product and ensure it is made from the activated recycled cotton. Finally, if the fingerprint on the products matches the corresponding information on the digital passport, the product is authenticated with an Aware label. The solution can also be applied to Polyester. 

Extensive auditing will still be necessary to ensure that the information corresponding to the microscopic particles is accurate. Still, the solution has the potential to make significant changes to green washing trends and facilitate consumers’ search for sustainable products. 

Meanwhile, the Aware Blockchain is powered by Circularise, a Dutch blockchain startup that is known for tracking plastics from initial resin to end product. The company received $1.8 million in funding through the EU’s Horizon 2020 program and has projects with Porsche, Japanese conglomerate Marubeni, and German plastic companies DOMO and Covestro.