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Climber wearing green insulated down jacket, sitting on crash pads at an outdoor crag

Now landing: recycled down at MEC

July 27, 2023

Found in Gear

If you like to get outside and stay warm, you’re probably familiar with down insulation. It might be in your favourite winter coat, your sleeping bag, or even in the duvet on your bed. It’s a great insulator for outdoor activities since it’s lightweight, compresses small, and keeps you toasty.

Which is why we’re excited to announce a totally new option for MEC Label products: recycled down. It’s the first time ever we’ve been able to do this – and you can see it in action in the Classic Bush Pilot Down Sweater, part of the limited-edition MEC Classics Collection.

Find out what makes recycled down so special, where it comes from, and what to expect next.

Why recycled down?

When our Vancouver-based MEC Label team started to design the Classics Collection, it felt like the perfect chance to try something new with materials. Recycled content is a goal for the materials we use, and recycled polyester and nylon is something we’ve been doing for years. So this time, we set our sights on a whole different material: recycled down.

Down has a long lifespan. As a material, it’s well-suited to use over and over again. Even better, recycled down helps us address the growing issue of textile waste. The recycled down in the Bush Pilot Down Sweater comes from post-consumer products (like bedding or pillows) that would otherwise have gone to the landfill, which means we’re helping to keep perfectly good materials out of the waste stream.

Climber wearing an insulated down jacket, carrying crash pads and climbing gear

The MEC Classic Bush Pilot Down Sweater uses RENU:700 Performance Recycled Down. The 700 stands for 700-fill-power, which gives you great warmth-to-weight ratio.

Where does the down come from?

We work with ALLIED Feather + Down for our RENU:700 Performance Recycled Down. Each season, they collect about 500,000 pillows and comforters that are otherwise destined for the landfill. They grade the items by quality and colour, then sort it into piles.

Did you know? Over 37kg of textile waste per person ends up in landfills each year (source) – about the same weight as 544 Clif bars. Recycled down is one way to reduce this waste.

Next up: an intense washing process to sterilize the down, using bluesign®-approved washing methods. Finally, there’s one last round of sorting to remove any broken feathers or fibres. One thing that’s especially nice about this whole process is acts as a bit of natural selection with the down clusters – the ones that remain at the end are very strong and give great loft per cluster. Recycled down retains its performance, so as long as you take care of your gear, you won’t even notice a difference.

Three white bags of recycled down

Recycled down goes through an intensive grading, sorting and cleaning process to get it ready to be used again. Photo: ALLIED Feather + Down.

What’s next for recycled down?

One of the great parts of trying recycled down in the Classics Collection is that we can experiment in a limited-edition run. We get to dabble in new ideas and materials in smaller quantities to make sure members love it.

So far, recycled down has been a hit with our design team. We’re excited to introduce this material into another product coming up; keep your eye out this fall for the MEC Label Bromont Ski Jacket with recycled down.

A close-up image of a down cluster

Close-up of a down cluster, the magic behind down’s ability to give you awesome warmth for weight. Thousands of tiny filaments radiate out and connect with filaments from other clusters, which creates what ALLIED calls a “structural web of insulating air.” Photo: ALLIED Feather + Down

Recycled down vs RDS-certified down

Some of you may be asking how recycled down stacks up against RDS-certified down (Responsible Down Standard). We asked ourselves this question too, as both kinds of down have more positive impacts:

  • RDS-certified down ensures that ducks and geese are raised humanely, with no live plucking or force feeding.

  • Recycled down ensures waste does not pollute our environment and helps in our transition to a more circular economy.

Comparing RDS-certified down to recycled down is like comparing apples to oranges: both are great options and it’s hard to definitively say which is better. Something we’re looking forward to? Down suppliers are working on ways to verify that recycled down is also RDS-certified, which would be the best of the best when it comes to down.

One thing we can say for certain, though, is that all down used in MEC Label gear will be either 100% recycled down or (for virgin down) 100% RDS-certified.

How to look after your down products

A little TLC keeps your down jackets and sleeping bags lasting longer. Check out our videos and articles on how to wash a down jacket and how to wash a sleeping bag for expert tips.

If you have down products that you want to recycle, check out RENU bedding to find out more.

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