British papermaker turns pre-loved jeans into luxury retail packaging

Sustainable papermaker James Cropper is giving old jeans a new life by transforming pre-loved denim into luxury retail packaging. The Lake District-based firm, which supplies high-end brands including Selfridges and Burberry, says denim has never been used before in modern papermaking – marking a significant step forward for the circular economy.

James Cropper’s new Rydal Apparel paper is made from 20 per cent post-consumer denim fibre and 80 per cent recycled fibre from sources such as used coffee cups. This not only makes the paper 100 per cent recycled, but also globally recyclable. As a cellulose based product, cotton-based paper can be recycled in standard waste streams.

Rydal Apparel is launching with a 350gsm and 220gsm paper in Denim White, which can be used for small boxes, garment tags, gift cards and retail carrier bags.

With eight billion pairs of jeans produced globally each year, fashion’s favourite staple contributes significantly to the textile waste problem. According to the World Economic Forum, 73 per cent of worn clothing is incinerated or sent to landfill when discarded. Only 12 per cent is recycled for insulation or mattresses, and less than 1 per cent is used to make new products. 

The launch is the latest innovation using James Cropper’s FibreBlend Upcycled Technology. The papermaker is behind a number of innovations including CupCycling – the world’s first technology to upcycle used coffee cups.

Kate Gilpin, packaging project leader at James Cropper, says: “This launch is about giving forgotten fashion a new lease of life. Cotton is the purest form of natural cellulose, and is a renewable resource often used for its archival qualities in papermaking. Using cotton in paper harks back as far as Shakespeare’s first folio, which exists today because it was penned on paper made from cotton fibres. 

“Cotton fibres are strong yet soft and make beautiful paper. Although modern papermaking relies heavily on pulps made from wood fibre, we are reviving the use of cotton rag in our portfolio as part of our ongoing commitment to fibre innovation and creating value from waste.” 

The pulp used to produce Rydal Apparel paper is created through a relatively new technology that allows the cotton to be dissolved and turned into pulp. This process offers the potential to create fibre of equal or higher quality with the properties demanded for premium paper for packaging. 

Gilpin concludes: “Our first Rydal Apparel offer is the start of an exciting journey. In the future we’re looking to offer customers the use of this fibre for bespoke shades, in a variety of weights.  

“The development of Rydal Apparel began in the midst of the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020 while our technical teams were working from home. This is a perfect demonstration of James Cropper’s culture for continual innovation through our FibreBlend Upcycled Technology strategy.”