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Women in the Trades: Covergalls introduces trailblazing new shirt made from recycled plastic

New CG Sustainability Collection will provide greener workwear

Covergalls became a trailblazer in women’s industrial and mining workwear when the company launched its women’s coveralls in 2014. This past August, it continued that trailblazing spirit by launching its high-visibility long-sleeve shirt made from recycled plastic. But unlike most of its past products that were born directly from industry, Covergalls’ latest safety shirt came in collaboration with Science North in Sudbury.

“Science North approached us to talk about (updating their famous) bluecoat,” said Covergalls’ CEO Alicia Woods. The famous Science North bluecoat worn by staff is a distinctive lab coat that’s become a symbol of the science centre.“When I heard about Waste2Wear... I immediately thought, ‘Wow — Science North would be the perfect partner to start this journey with Waste2Wear.’”

Originally, the plan was simply to create a lighter blue coat so it wasn’t as hot to wear, Woods said. But Waste2Wear also offered the added bonus of being more environmentally friendly. The fabric is made from recycled plastic, reducing the amount of new material needed to produce. Further, according to Waste2Wear, the manufacturing process reduces energy needed to produce by 70 per cent, CO 2 emissions by 75 per cent, and water use by 86 per cent.

Woods decided to try the new material with one of their top selling workwear items: the high-visibility shirt. She said that at first she was wary to tinker with a good thing.

“It is super comfortable, moisture-wicking — women love this shirt. So I had a little hesitation moving to recycled plastic water bottle material. But to my surprise, it is actually much nicer,” Woods said. Aside from the sustainability aspect, Woods said the material is more comfortable and has other benefits including antibacterial properties. “It is definitely an improvement in a number of different areas.”

Waste2Water backs up its sustainability claims by tracking products through the manufacturing process using blockchain technology. Woods said that every shirt comes with a QR code. Companies or the users themselves can scan the code with their phones to see every step of the process including through videos and pictures, which are added to the record.

“Big mining companies or construction, or any company that wants that sustainability piece — we can actually work with them to have their own landing page so that they can show their impact as an organization,” she said.

Currently, the shirts are manufactured in Egypt by what Woods referred to as a Waste2Water-certified manufacturer. All manufacturing is vertically integrated from material to final product.

“There are future goals of having a certified manufacturing facility in Canada... which would be cool for Canadian companies and partners,” Woods said.

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Covergalls is also in the process of setting up a program where the company will accept old shirts that will in turn be recycled, increasing sustainability of the shirts even further. Woods said that she is working out the details, but hopes to have the program in place by the first part of 2023.

Woods said that there are several ways women can get the new sustainable high-vis shirt. They can buy directly on the Covergalls online store. Covergalls is also working with companies to supply them with this new, sustainable shirt as they replace old shirts.

“The response has been extremely positive,” Woods said, adding that some people have commented that the new material is another way Covergalls is disrupting the workwear market. “It’s just part of that innovation journey and thinking outside the box, which is something we challenge ourselves to do.”

“Disrupting workwear” is also something that is part of Covergalls DNA from the beginning. From coveralls grew a number of different product lines including cargo pants, bibs, and of course high-vis and other safety clothing. Woods said that many women use some of the high-vis clothes for after-work activities as well, including running and hunting. Each item was a result of listening to the needs of women working in mining, construction, and other industries.

“For me personally, what I wore in mining was the coverall,” Woods said. Once the Covergall launched, women reached out to the company asking for other clothing including cargo pants, shirts, parkas, and vests. “Quickly we realized that we needed to expand our product offering and really cover gals head to toe with proper-fitting workwear.”

Plans are in place for new items in the SG Sustainability Collection, Woods said, including cargo pants and a maternity line. For that one, Covergalls plans to take sustainability a step further by buying back gently used workwear that other women can use. Future lines may include unisex clothing as well, Woods said.

And the Science North blue coats that started it all?

“It just happened that this high-vis piece launched before the blue coat, but it will be coming out (soon),” Woods said.

That just may set the stage for Covergalls to trailblaze in a whole new direction, providing unique and sustainable workwear for customers outside of mining, trades, and industry.