Sustainability is a major factor in how fashion brands are deciding on what items to produce, how they market themselves and overall strategic planning. With repurposed textiles being among the most popular types of sustainable fashion, everyone from manufacturers to retailers are continuing to evolve how they are contributing to this movement as well as using materials that are recyclable. 

We’ve broken down some of the most popular materials and fabrics that can be upcycled. 


Cotton is by far the most recycled textile and the most common material you’ll probably find in a variety of the garments you own. From cotton swabs to yarn to new clothing items, recycled cotton is a very versatile material. It also is one of the fabrics that be repurposed whether or not it’s been worn.

cotton field

Being that cotton is biodegradable and a natural fibre, it is one of the easiest materials to recycle and reuse. This is a great material to create garments because even if it destroyed or simply beyond reuse, it won’t cause harm to the planet by adding waste to a landfill.


Wool is one of the fibers used in many types of clothing that actually has a largely negative impact on the environment. The production process requires harsh chemicals, large quantities of water and energy resources just to turn the sheep-sheared wool into a clean, high-quality piece that is eventually dyed for things like scarves or sweaters. Because of this harmful process, it’s no surprise that wool production is causing problems.

wool sweater

Recycling wool is one of the easiest ways to lessen its impact on the environment and foster sustainability. Many companies that use recycled wool have to ensure that it goes through a rigorous sorting and shredding process so the materials can be reused for things like new sweaters or blankets. The other way it can help the environment is by blending wool pieces of similar colors to eliminate or minimize the dyeing process. This will help save water and reduce the number of harsh chemicals that are used.


When referring to recycled garments, most people’s minds go directly towards natural fibers like cotton and silk. But what many don’t realize is that polyester, a man-made material, is one that holds a lot of impact on the environment once it is repurposed. Polyester is made from the non-renewable resource petroleum. Because of how it is extracted, it creates a number of damaging effects on the environment.

polyester garment tag

When companies and consumers choose to recycle polyester, they’re reducing the need for additional production of new materials. This will lead to a decreased number of toxic emissions and lessen the use of fossil fuels. Recycling polyester is one of the easiest ways to help guide us to a sustainable future.


While the recycling process for many of the other materials we mentioned might be simple, nylon is one a lot of recycling facilities don’t or won’t accept. Why? Because recycling nylon is actually a lot more time-consuming and expensive than any other material. Nylon is a unique and versatile textile that requires specific types of technology to break it down properly.

nylon material

Nevertheless, if a company is working with a nylon-friendly facility, it can benefit the environment in similar ways to polyester. It will take up less energy, use reduced amounts of water and lessen the need for fossil fuels or harmful emissions.


When some people hear the word “burlap” used in reference to fashion, they start to think of others walking around in potato sacks. But, this natural, biodegradable material can be used for a variety of things and in a variety of ways. From items as big as bags to materials as small as yarn, burlap is one of the best fibers to use. It is also ideal for recycling because it can be repurposed more than once. 

burlap fabric

By using and recycling a fiber like burlap, there is a reduced amount of waste that ends up just sitting in a landfill for years. It is certainly a material that is being used more and more by sustainable fashion brands.

As the process of upcycling becomes more popular among companies, we will be able to unlock new ways to reuse fibers and materials. At Dona Bela Shreds, we believe that sustainability is the future of fashion. All of our designs are handmade locally from recycled textiles. Discover our latest additions and jump on the sustainable fashion train!

January 13, 2020 — Allison Motoyama