Teemill's circular supply chain: from cotton seed to t-shirt, nothing is wasted!

Type of organisation or company
United Kingdom
Language for original content
Key Area
Submitted by
Technopolis Group

Every year 100 billion new items of clothing are produced, most of them destined to be burned, or buried in a landfill. Teemill takes the waste material at the end of its life cycle, and makes new products from it, thus starting a new cycle. The company produces t-shirts from organic cotton designed to be sent back to the company when they are worn out. With products and packaging made from natural materials, new products can be made from the material recovered.

Organic cotton is produced in Northern India, where monsoons fill reservoirs that supply almost all water needed. Co-planting and insect traps are used along with cow dung instead of toxic pesticides and fertilisers. 

Harvested organic cotton is taken by camel or truck to the ginning plants, where the raw material is separated out into the fibres to be spun. The waste seeds are pressed into cakes sold for organic cow feed. Vegetable oil is squeezed out last for use in food products.

Cotton farmers get a price for their cotton which is guaranteed by the regional government and varies according to their produce quality level.

Products are made in an Indian factory where spinning, dyeing, weaving, cutting and sewing are vertically integrated, with cost savings reinvested in the facilities. When fabrics are dyed, the water is recovered, cleaned and recirculated in a closed loop. This factory is audited for a wide range of social and sustainability criteria. 

In the UK, Teemill owns a solar farm and powers manufacturing with renewables. In India, the factory owns two wind farms and a 150kw PV array.

For more info on Teemill's circular journey click here.

Main results
  • Products are only made after they have been ordered - so there is no waste.
  • Benefits of this technology are shared with startups and charities at Teemill.com
  • Teemill vocational training programmes have helped over 40 young people on the Isle of Wight get into full time work
  • For packaging, the company uses a rip and splash-proof mailer bag made out of paper, or cardboard boxes with paper-based tape, for larger orders – and is increasingly using waste material from t-shirt production.