Sock manufacturer Wigwam says it has been in the business of protecting the environment and using sustainable manufacturing practices for 112 years, but just recently discovered a significant – and easily solvable – sustainability problem: new president and CEO (as of last fall) Tom Wheeler discovered that a large number of socks – to the tune of 2,000 pounds a month – were being discarded for not meeting quality standards. When he checked out the discarded pairs, most of the time he couldn’t tell what was wrong with at least one of the socks, so he implemented a simple process improvement: establishing a recycling center within the finishing department where they are sorted, inspected, and “re-paired” the discarded pairs. Now, they distribute those socks to people who need them.
The move, says Wheeler in a Wigwam blog post, will also move the company toward its goal of becoming a zero landfill company.
Wigwam will also be working with Martex Fiber to recycle discarded yarn that doesn’t make it through the knitting process. Martex has A “No Fiber Left Behind” effort to eliminate textile waste. With countless spools of yarn working their way through the knitting process at Wigwam, the company is now recycling the discarded plastic and cardboard cones that end up after yarn is used; it also donates them to the local art museum where they are repurposed for arts and crafts.
The company says it uses solar energy to heat water in its dye house and motion sensor lights in its distribution center to reduce energy consumption.