Yarn manufacturers are starting to promote yarns that have been made in part with recycled fibers, but is recycled yarn really better for the planet?
Recycled yarn is any yarn that contains fibers that were once used for something else. Probably the first such yarn available was the recycled silk yarn, made from the end bits left over from sari production.
These days you're beginning to see more yarns made with recycled cotton or plastic content.
Recycled cotton yarn typically comes from the remnants left over after manufacturing T-shirts, while plastic fiber is extruded from recycled plastic bottles. You'll sometimes see this referred to as soda bottle yarn.
Is Recycled Yarn Better?
These sorts of yarns vary in the amount of recycled content that is used to make them, so while diverting waste from landfills is always a good idea, these might not be the most eco-friendly fibers out there.
As always when it comes to choosing greener yarns, there are tradeoffs. It could well be that a 100 percent organic cotton yarn is better for the planet than a yarn made in part with conventionally produced but recycled fiber (cotton in particular is tricky because it is so pesticide intensive), especially if that non-organic yarn is also conventionally dyed.
Recycling plastic is great, but it's often used in acrylic yarns, which can use a lot of petroleum products in their production.
That's no reason to turn away from recycled yarns, but it is important to know all the potential fiber choices that are out there and, if eco knitting is something you're interested in, weighing your own priorities against what's known about the production practices that went into the yarn you're considering.