By Candice Shih The Orange County Register
SANTA ANA, Calif. — Until two years ago, George Powell didn’t think about recycling.
At that time, he was 56, had been mostly retired for four years and was spending most of his time with his young son and golfing.
It was on a field trip to the recycling center with his son, Luke, who was 3 at the time, and about 500 plastic and glass bottles that he came to a realization.
“If I had started recycling, I’ll bet there are a lot of other people who recycle a lot better and with more enthusiasm than I do,” said Powell of Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Powell applied this thought to the retail and apparel industry where he had worked since 1979. He had connections in China and began exploring ways to recycle fabric.
What he wants people to know is that he’s not just taking someone else’s jeans, slapping a new label on it and reselling it.
Instead, Powell’s company, Reuse Jeans, takes preconsumer waste as its raw material. When factories in China produce leftover fabric from cut cloth and fabric with defects, Reuse takes it and runs it through a machine that resembles a shredder.
“In large part, it looks like cotton when it comes from the fields,” Powell said.
The newly formed material is spun into yarn, then woven into new fabric and cut into brand-new jeans. The leftovers and defects from Reuse’s manufacturing process is again run through the recycling process.
Reuse’s signature jeans are made from 80 percent recycled materials and other yarns to add stretch and pliability. Powell believes this to be the most efficient use of recycled material in the denim market.
And he believes it is a sign of things to come.
Reuse makes its labels and hang tags from recycled paper and is packaging its summer shipment in biodegradable bags. Powell is looking for sources of recycled zippers, rivets and shanks, and he wants to use vacuum packing to reduce the amount of cardboard packaging.
Powell knows his product has to look right, feel right and be priced right, so he called upon his experience producing jeans for other brands.
The results include a dark skinny jean, a boot-cut jean with back-pocket embellishments and a classic-cut jean with distressing on the front. They cost $85 to $95 per pair on Reuse’s website.
Next up for the Reuse is adding men’s denim in the fall and later two more lines, Rejeaneration for the midpriced department store market and Regear for big-box stores.