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Chandler company turns worn-out blue jeans into insulation, more

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CHANDLER – They’ve been sung about by Neil Diamond, Flo Rida and Blur. They’re worn until they rip and tatter, then worn some more. They are your jeans.

When your denim is worn to the point where it’s no longer useful as clothing, it can serve another purpose. A company in Chandler is taking this evergreen apparel and recycling it to make bedding, wall insulation and soundproofing products.

Bonded Logic, with its sister company Phoenix Fibers, collects denim that has been donated, bought in bulk from Goodwill and Salvation Army or thrown away, according to Sean Desmond, director of sales and marketing for Bonded Logic.

“People will throw a lot of their old clothing away,” Desmond said. “Maybe in the past that was an option, but these days there so many people doing things with our old clothing that that just doesn’t make sense anymore.”

The average pair of jeans weighs about 2 to 3 pounds. Bonded Logic goes through about 150 pairs of jeans per 500-pound bale and produces more than 2 million pounds of cotton-based product annually.

The Bonded Logic UltraTouch insulation is made up of 80 percent blue jeans, according to Desmond. The remaining 20 percent includes a flame-retardant chemical treatment, binder fibers and other cotton materials like raw cotton or cotton from underwear and socks.

Insulation can be made up any combination of materials like fiberglass, cellulose, slag wool, rock and foam, to name a few. Products made from these typically have a 30-year life span, Desmond said, the same as the recycled jean insulation.

There is a cost discrepancy, however.

The Lowe’s online store has listed the prices of a 163-square-foot batt of Johns Manville fiberglass insulation for about $70. The same quality of UltraTouch denim insulation from Bonded Logic – R-13 – costs $51 for just 77.5 square feet.

This may be a moment where buyers get what they pay for, Desmond said. What his company’s products lack in attractive pricing they make up in quality, superior acoustic properties and reducing users’ carbon footprint, he said.

“There’s a lot of other products out there made of traditional materials like fiberglass and foams. While those products work, they have drawbacks,” Desmond said. “They’re tied to oil, they have a lot of price fluctuations, and they’re not that user-friendly to work with. When we use something like cotton or denim, we know we’re making healthy and safe products that anybody can use.”

Mick Dalrymple, senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, said that while Bonded Logic has led the movement for cotton insulation, large fiberglass manufacturers are narrowing the eco-friendly gap by using recycled fiberglass as well as cellulose comprised of recycled paper.

“Sure, Bonded Logic was the leader in recycled cotton insulation, hands down,” Dalrymple said. “It is the fiberglass folks that have been working to catch up, working within their fiberglass world. It took them awhile because they have big ships of investment in technology and machinery to turn in a new direction. It is nice to see them making strides. It’s better for everyone, as fiberglass is still the dominant form of insulation.”

Though Dalrymple said he doesn’t believe cotton insulation will ever overtake fiberglass, he does believe that denim insulation will become more popular and profitable as more people learn of its existence.

“People are just used to fiberglass; that’s what they know,” he said. “The bottom line is cotton insulation will grow in market share versus fiberglass because of its superior acoustic benefits and lack of scratchiness. But the price differential and momentum will keep that growth lower than it would be otherwise.”

Dave Stanciu, general manager at Bonded Logic, said that making recycled products goes further than being higher quality and more user-friendly. He said that he likes to practice what he teaches his children by giving back.

“I do think we have some sort of responsibility to society to take care of the environment. I teach that to my kids all the time. I like being part of something that’s made in the United States.”