The Growth in Recycled T-Shirt Printing

The Growth in Recycled T-Shirt Printing
12th November 2021 5th Team

A couple of years ago now we published an article about screen printing and the rise of recycled fabric in the custom clothing industry. In the intervening period we’re pleased to say that we’ve seen the trend continue. As an illustration, our friends over at Stanley Stella have recently shown us some exciting new styles using recycled materials in their AW21 collection. It got us thinking about that earlier article and how it would be a good time to revisit the subject. Hence this piece on the growth of recycled t-shirt printing.

Before we go too much further, we ought to point out that this is a pretty positive post. One we think you’ll enjoy if, like us, you’re into fashion and t-shirt printing but want it to be ethical and sustainable. Printing and embroidery, whilst clearly being a specialised area, doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For example, ethical customisation methods have far greater meaning when the t-shirt being printed is ethically made from responsibly sourced materials. It’s the proverbial win-win combination.

What recycled means in relation to the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.


The content of garments in relation to the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.


The issue of quality in relation to the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.


Meaning | Recycled T-Shirt Printing.

We ought to clarify what we mean by the word ‘recycled’ when we talk about the growth of recycled t-shirt printing. A popular misconception is that recycled means made from previously used garments. Generally speaking, that’s not the case at the moment. By which we mean clothing can most certainly be recycled but it doesn’t morph into new garments.

Recycled apparel tends to be turned into stuff like padding for furniture or cleaning cloths, not your new favourite t-shirt. Reliable suppliers are clear on this aspect, they will always specify what they mean by recycled, where it comes from, and how it figures in their products.

The recycled content of the Salvage SA01 t-shirt, an illustration of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

SA01 T-Shirt

The recycled content of the Salvage SA02 t-shirt, an illustration of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

SA02 T-Shirt

The recycled content of the Salvage SA22 t-shirt, an illustration of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

SA22 T-Shirt

Content | Recycled T-Shirt Printing.

The content of most ethical recycled blank clothing is currently cotton and/or polyester. The cotton is pre-consumer. By which we mean cuttings from the production process when manufacturing new tees are retrieved rather than thrown away. These are then shredded and turned back into cotton fibre to create more clothing.

Conversely, the polyester used in making recycled t-shirts tends to be post-consumer, the most common source being plastic bottles. We’re sure everyone would agree that recycling bottles into t-shirt fabric is a far preferable alternative to filling our oceans with them. The graphics above have been created by the good folk over at Continental Clothing. These t-shirts, shown in more detail below, come from their superb Salvage range and are an excellent demonstration of great ideas generating tangible results.

Quality | Recycled T-Shirt Printing.

Let’s digress slightly and quickly consider the issue of quality when choosing t-shirts for rebranding. Bear with us because it’s a short deviation from the main topic and relevant to the broader theme of sustainability and circularity in fashion. Here at Fifth Column we know our printing will be as good as you can get. With that in mind, we often recommend higher quality base garments when it comes to screen printing t-shirts. That doesn’t mean we won’t deliver stunning results when we customise more economical options, just that given the choice we opt for better quality

There are a number of reasons for this preference. For one thing, higher quality blank t-shirts usually print better. Going beyond that, they represent your brand in a better light. Customers will come to associate your label with products that are well-made and built to last. Many consumers are drawing back from the short-sighted concept of fast fashion. The ‘wear it three times and chuck it in the bin’ culture is losing its appeal. And this change can have a genuinely positive impact on our environment. Investing in superior quality, an item to treasure and wear for years, makes more sense for your pocket and the planet

Need t-shirts printed? Get in touch we can help.

The Stanley Stella Re-Blaster t-shirt, an example of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

Re-Blaster T-Shirt

The Stanley Stella Re-Creator t-shirt, an example of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

Re-Creator T-Shirt

The Salvage Baseball t-shirt, an example of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

Baseball T-Shirt

The Salvage Classic t-shirt, an example of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

Classic T-Shirt

The Salvage Rolled Sleeve t-shirt, an example of the growth in recycled t-shirt printing.

Rolled Sleeve T-Shirt

Performance T-Shirt

Examples | Recycled T-Shirt Printing.

Digression over, we’ll get back on track with the growth in screen printing recycled t-shirts. We’ve taken examples from Stanley Stella, Salvage, and Neutral. Three blank brands with outstanding eco-ethical credentials. All of them put sustainability and responsible sourcing at the heart of their business.

STTU792 Stanley Stella Re-Blaster T-Shirt.

This Re-Blaster tee is one of the newly launched recycled shirts from Stanley Stella. Half recycled organic cotton cuttings and half virgin organic undyed cotton, the Re-Blaster is an oversized style with an even greater ethical appeal.

STTU787 Stanley Stella Re-Creator T-Shirt.

Our second item from Stanley Stella, the Re-Creator t-shirt is, as the name suggests, a recycled take on their iconic Creator. Again, this fabulous shirt is made using Stanley Stella’s in-house cotton cutting waste.

SA22 Salvage Baseball T-Shirt.

Crafted from 60% organically grown, recycled pre-consumer cotton and 40% recycled post-consumer polyester. The unisex Salvage Baseball t-shirt is a piece of clothing which ticks ethical boxes and looks fantastic into the bargain.

SA01 Salvage Classic T-Shirt.

Another pick from the Continental’s rather wonderful recycled collection. This Salvage Classic t-shirt may well have a conventional styling, but the philosophy behind it is all about innovation and environmental responsibility.

SA16 Salvage Rolled Sleeve T-Shirt.

Our third selection from Salvage, their women’s rolled sleeve t-shirt, brings a delightful slice of on-trend to proceedings. It’s fashioned from the same recycled organic cotton and polyester blend as their baseball tee.

R61001 Neutral Recycled Performance T-Shirt.

Completely made from recycled polyester, the Neutral® Certified Responsibility™ performance tee is a top choice for sport and activity. Proof positive that adopting a sustainable ethos can give you a definite edge on competitors.

Recycled is Good Business.

In many ways, apparel made from recycled materials has already become established in public consciousness. For instance, Nike have been making football kits and sports gear with recycled elements for several years now. It’s worth taking note when a global brand of this magnitude embraces the principle. If for no other reason than corporate giants have the marketing intelligence to spot the link between sustainability and profit.

Reducing waste, reusing rather than discarding, and recycling precious resources is clearly more eco-friendly than the traditional approach. However, the rationale for doing so stretches beyond purely environmental concerns. Put bluntly, it’s good for business. Given the choice, consumers are generally very keen to make responsible decisions. People obviously want high quality, but they also want to feel as if they’re contributing and doing the right thing. And the idea of circularity in fashion is gaining ground every day.

On balance, as garment decorators we think the growth in recycled t-shirt printing is going to continue. And choosing them for your next print run is not only ecologically aware, it could give your brand an extra selling point.

Fifth Column, t-shirt printing in the UK since 1977. We offer a comprehensive range of garment decoration services and we love what do.

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