Is denim biodegradable (3 disposal options)

The article will discuss the biodegradability of denim while also shedding light on topics such as:

  • Is denim eco-friendly?
  • Are all denim bad for the environment?
  • How can you contribute to denim problem alleviation?
  • How to dispose of denim?

Is denim biodegradable?

The exact answer varies. Denim is made from natural fibres that can be degraded by the action of microbes and that is exactly what biodegradation is. However, if denim is treated with hazardous chemicals and dyes, then it can not be said to be biodegradable due to the synthetic processing and finishing regardless of being naturally derived. 

The rule of thumb that follows the biodegradation process is that naturally-derived materials contain organic content that can be broken down by the action of microbes readily. 

When we consider the case of textiles, there are two possible situations. One is that textiles are made from natural fibres and the other is that textiles are made from non-natural fibres. 

The case of denim is simple: derived from cotton. However, the processing, production, and finishing of cotton lead to divergences and complications that make environmentalists question the sustainability aspects of denim. 

Is denim eco-friendly?

One of the most important filters and questions that have become eminent these days is what is the eco-friendly status of any particular product. It may be made from natural materials but it is not necessary that denim is eco-friendly as well. 

As per experts, denim can not be given the status of being eco-friendly because of several factors such as:

  • The production of denim happens at the cost of water which is a limited resource
  • The manufacturing of denim may include the use of hazardous and harmful chemicals and dyes including carcinogens
  • The production of denim may put the workers at risk of contamination and health issues
  • The production of denim may also indicate usage of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides to meet the production demands 

Water usage

It is argued that owing to the increasing market demands, denim production requires a lot of water to make denim. This can become bad, especially when more than 10% of the global population lacks access to safe drinking water. 

It is estimated that denim production may lead to the consumption of substantial and unsustainable amounts of water as there are two stages where water is consumed in an unbalanced amount. 

One stage is the growth of cotton and the other stage is the production of denim fabrics. These two stages consume a lot of water which is bad for the environment given the context that water is already a scarce resource. 

It is estimated and studied that water consumption may surge up to as much as 10,000 litres of water in the production process and up to 25 litres per one kg of cotton produced. The figures speak for themselves. 

The dyeing process

Denim products need to be dyed to achieve the desired colours. This step is also hazardous to health and the environment. 

Most of the denim production is done at the expense of synthetic dyes that are made from chemicals that have the potential to harm the environment in the form of waterways, groundwater, and health complications. 

Consumption of non-renewable resources

Another factor that advocates in favour of denim being not sustainable is the fact that denim production is done at the expense of non-renewable resources. For instance, in most of the facilities, electricity is used which is derived from the burning of fossil fuels. 

This adds to the already exacerbated environmental problems because fossils are burnt, and there is a release of greenhouse gases which lead to environmental anomalies such as global warming, deforestation, and environmental anomalies. 

Are all denim bad for the environment?

No, not all denim is bad for the environment because some contemporary brands and manufacturers actually incline toward and prefer sustainable alternatives. 

The essence of the main story is that denim can be sustainable too if they are used and made with a green mindset. 

For example, let us take the issue of water consumption at hand. It has been discussed and asserted that when denim is produced, there is a substantial and unsustainable amount of water used. 

However, some companies actually have started to use recycled water. This means that the water that is used to make denim is reused to make more denim after the recycling process. This reduced the toll on the environment. 

Another example that can be given is the dyes. While most denim is made from synthetic dyes, denim can also be made from natural dyes which will eliminate all the environmental concerns that exist because of the use of synthetic dyes. 

The problem of non-renewable resources can also be addressed when denim is used from renewable resources such as wind energy, or solar energy. 

How can you contribute to the alleviation of the denim problem?

It is not entirely in the hands of the makers or manufacturers. You can also play a part in the alleviation of the problems that stem from the use and production of denim. 

The steps that can be taken include:

  • Use good quality denim that may last for a long time so that there is less denim waste 
  • Prefer eco-friendly and green brands so that you make sure that the denim that you wear does not take an extra toll on the environment in terms of water use, synthetic dyes, and consumption of non-renewable resources of energy 
  • Buy recycled denim to make sure that the effect on raw materials and natural sources (cotton and dyes) is reduced 
  • Properly use denim to ensure a long-term use. It is studied that if taken care of properly, denim may last for up to three years 
  • When it comes to disposal, prefer reusing, repurposing and recycling instead of just throwing them away in the trash cans as this would not benefit anyone

How to dispose of denim?

As expressed, the best way to dispose of denim is to not dispose of it but rather go for greener options that include:

Reuse it 

If you think that you no longer need to use your denim it does not mean that the disposal of it is necessary. You can go for greener alternatives. For example, one of the things that you can do is to give it to someone or donate it. 

If the denim is of good quality, then perhaps it is a good option to consider. However, if you think that your denim can not be used by anyone, then it may be wise to go for the other options available. 

Recycle it 

denim can also be recycled. This is a good way to ensure that there is no denim waste while also making sure that the denim production or use does not include the use of excessive raw materials such as water or other valuable resources. 

When it comes to the recycling of denim, there are options that you can consider such as Terrcycle or Blue Jeans Go Green

It is generally not advised to put the denim in regular trash cans or recycling bins because denim needs to be handled differently as its material such as zippers, buttons et cetera need to be segregated first. 

Not all the local recycling centres will accept denim and therefore, you will need to verify it from your local recycling centre to ensure that denim can be recycled there. 

Repurpose it 

Another great and green way to deal with the denim that you no longer deem to use is to repurpose it. You can go for options such as:

  • Rugs 
  • Pot holders 
  • Headbands 
  • Baby bibs
  • Napkins 
  • Arts & Crafts
  • DIY projects 


It is concluded that denim is biodegradable if they are made from natural and organic cotton. However, factors such as the use of unsustainable amounts of water, the use of artificial dyes, and the consumption of non-renewable resources can make denim unsustainable. 

However, not all denim is bad for the environment. Some contemporary denim is made such that the environmental effects are reduced. The article also discussed ways through which you can contribute to the alleviation of environmental anomalies caused by denim. 

Lastly, the article discussed ways to dispose of denim included reuse, recycling and repurposing to ensure that there is no unnecessary denim waste. 


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