As any screen printer can tell you, we all make mistakes. While OTB does have systems and processes in place to minimize mistakes, screen printing is ever-changing. In an effort to remain on the forefront of our industry, OTB works hard to keep up and be knowledgeable about screen printing and garment decorating in general. Sometimes when working to perfect a new printing technique, effect or using new ink(s) and/or substrate, garments are unintentionally “sacrificed”. This can happen in any number of ways, but the most common reasons that a garment is ruined are due to misprints, scorching or general garment flaws like holes, uneven seams and loose stitching. When this happens our team does our best to extend the life of the garment.
Screen printed pieces cannot be recycled and made into new garments because of the ink used in the screen printing process. Once this ink is applied to a fabric, it cannot be removed. Because of this fact, after the garment has been damaged to the point where it can no longer be worn, it often ends up in the dump, left to slowly decompose over centuries. This adds to an enormous problem; that our species is making more trash than we know what to do with. Not only is the amount of space that clothes occupy in the landfill concerning, but as the fabrics decompose they release what is know as landfill gas. The two major gases that compose landfill gas are carbon dioxide and methane. Both of which are major contributors to the runaway green house gas effect.
At Out of the Blue, environmental responsibility is a core value. We strive to use only environmentally friendly products, supplies, and practices. Being that we are in the clothing and textile industry, we feel that we have a responsibility to minimize waste in our operations. In doing so, we hope to reduce landfill mass, provide materials for those who can re-purpose fabrics, and decrease the amount of energy that would otherwise be used to produce new clothes.
We do not waste any fabrics! Every textile is used multiple times in-house until it is ultimately donated. For example, if we have an order for 1,000 shirts and three of the shirts that we receive from the manufacture have a small hole in them, we will send back the garments with holes where they will be recycled by the manufacture into new garments. But what happens if we have a misprint, scorch the shirt, or another manufacturing flaw is found during packaging? We bring in overs on ever order to “fill in” when this happens so we can immediately re-print the garments needed to fill the order. But then we are left with the printed garments that we had to replace. We’ve built a process to re-purpose those garments rather than toss them in the garbage. First they are used as test print shirts. When setting up a new order for production, we need to test the print to be sure it’s set-up correctly. It’s best to test on fabric. That’s where the damaged garments start their afterlife; as test shirts. Eventually those test print shirts will be completely covered in ink inside and out, rendering them useless as test print material moving forward. At that point the shirts are rededicated as rags for cleaning. We also welcome schools, animal shelters, mechanics, and other various third parties who might find use for these rags and donate them. At one point we worked with a rock climbing company that picked up these garments and re-manufactured them into chalk bags for climbers. There were no two pieces alike making for a unique and applicable new recycled product.
It is also worth mentioning that all of our ink is non-toxic and phthalate compliant. We recycle it as well. For example, we may mix two inks together to create a new custom color for a customer. Although we try to mix only what we need, sometimes we have extra. Instead of tossing the ink, we hold onto it for future use when we might need that particular blend again. We can also use it to create a new shade for a future order.
Another way Out of the Blue reduces waste is by printing all of our documents double sided, with the exception of invoices. In doing this we use less paper, and decrease the demand for paper processing.
It is important to OTB that we protect our resources and manufacture/print/decorate in such a way that is not only environmentally friendly, but that also promotes education and awareness about recycling in our industry.