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World No-Tobacco Day: As the menace of cigarette butt pollution continues, Lee Cooper weaves jeans out of them

World No-Tobacco Day: As the menace of cigarette butt pollution continues, Lee Cooper weaves jeans out of them
Cigarette jeans may have been slowly losing in popularity to the wide-legged, barrel and balloon styles, but one denim company has taken it upon themselves to bring them back to fashion — literally speaking, in this case.

In a much-needed move towards sustainability, Lee Cooper has launched the world's first jeans made from cigarette butt waste. This innovative initiative not only represents a significant milestone for the Reliance-owned brand, but also marks a revolutionary step in tackling the crass environmental pollution the toxic material poses.

The obvious health concerns of smoking aside, cigarettes remain a menace even after its usage — it’s hard to go for a walk without finding a stubbed butt on the roadside. And it makes sense, considering that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are discarded worldwide, with India alone accounting for 100 billion of these. These butts, which are typically made of plastic that take decades to decompose, inevitably enter and pollute our drains, rivers and oceans.

"In the time it takes to read this sentence, more than 12,000 cigarette butts are trashed in India," explains Naman Gupta, Founder of Code Effort, an organisation that started with upcycling cigarette waste into toys, and is now converting them into jeans via partnership with Reliance Retail.

Each pair of these eco-jeans cleans up approximately 600 cigarette butts, the company explains. Code Effort works with associates across 250 districts to collect discarded cigarette butts. The collected waste undergoes a meticulous cleaning process to ensure all components, including hazardous effluents, are safely recycled.

After being sent to mills for processing, they are recycled into yarns that are woven into a breathable and smooth textile suitable for the Indian climate. According to Code Effort, the jeans have passed all performance tests, proving that sustainable materials can match the quality and durability of conventional fabrics.

"We’re rewriting the fashion playbook by turning unusable into sustainable," notes Jayesh Sali, a Marketing Head at Reliance Retail.

As per media sources, the “cigarette” jeans will be part of Lee Cooper’s Autumn-Winter 2024 collection, and are set to hit the market between July and August this year. This launch not only positions Lee Cooper as a leader in sustainable fashion but also sets a new benchmark for the industry.

However, it may be important to know that the production of jeans has a significant environmental cost too, with the fashion industry responsible for about 9% of total carbon emissions. Growing the cotton for a single pair of jeans can require up to 7,500 litres of water. Additionally, pollution from the dyeing and finishing processes often involve toxic chemicals that can pollute waterways and harm ecosystems.

It is thus an urgent need of the hour that we find sustainable practices in the fashion industry. As Lee Cooper continues to innovate, it will hopefully set a powerful example for other companies to follow suit.

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