Cotton is the mostly commonly used fibre. Because it is naturally grown, breathable and forms the main constituent of what we wear every day – be it denim jeans or our favourite T-shirt. But not all roads lead to Rome; likewise not all cotton materials are alike. In fact there a whole lot of cotton varieties that can be classified on how they are actually produced. Each production method will have its own social and environmental impact and hence the need to understand the underlying difference between recycled, conventional and organic cotton.

If we have sound information on things that separate the three, we can well understand the real impact of each cotton type on the world and thus make informed buying decisions for making positive changes. Therefore, we have enumerated the key differences among the conventional, recycled cotton and organic cotton types in this blog:

Conventional cotton:

Conventional cotton, though the most stable of cotton types, takes up an estimated 2.4% of the world’s land and is considered to contain a large percentage of the world’s toxic chemicals. Though the numbers show some decline in some regions of the world, as per a report of the Cotton Advisory Committee (CAC), conventional cotton still contain as much 14% of all insecticides and 5% of all insecticides used worldwide. Besides, conventional cotton consumes about 290 gallons of water to manufacture one T- shirt. Therefore, in addition to adversely affecting the environment, it can prove detrimental to women’s health too.

Organic cotton

Organic cotton is sourced from materials known for low environmental impact. The growing methods of cotton can reduce the impact that toxic pesticides and fertilizers have on soil fertility and continuance of biodiversity, rather than wiping theses out all together. There are rigid standards dictating classification of cotton, but while organic cotton is more sustainable than traditional cotton, it doesn’t come as a perfect alternative. Organic cotton can take in a lot of resources, for instance, it may take as much as 660 gallons of water in order to produce one T-shirt. However, the safest bit will be to buy conventional cotton pieces only as much as you actually need.

Recycled cotton:

Recycled cotton is of two types: post-consumer & pre-consumer recycled cotton. The former is reused after the consumer is done with their clothing piece, while the latter is produced from manufacturing waste instead. This includes all that usually doesn’t reach customer’s hands: rejects, scraps and trimmings, however can be offered new life. Both forms of recycled cotton present a better alternative than the fabric wastes simply transported to landfill. However, pre-consumer cotton accounts for an estimated 15-20% of fabric waste during the production process. This said recycled pre-consumer cotton throws in a lot of opportunities for the waste-intensive word of fashion trends.