Spandex is a fast-drying material that provides significant
strength and elasticity. Using recycled spandex offers the
same stretch and quality while diverting waste from landfills.


Spandex is a critical material in our products. Also known as elastane or LYCRA, spandex is an elastic polymer (a type of plastic derived from petroleum) that makes garments and trims stretchy, which allows them to be formfitting and enables freedom of movement. Unfortunately, extracting and refining the petroleum used to make virgin spandex pollutes land, air and water, and contributes to global warming. Making the yarn is problematic, too. All spandex, both recycled and virgin, has to be dissolved in either dimethylacetamide (DMAc) or dimethylformamide (DMF) to create new yarn. Because this solvent has been linked to liver and reproductive toxicity and deemed a “Substance of Very High Concern” by the European Union, Patagonia uses as little spandex as possible in our products.

When functional stretch is critical, they look to recycled spandex. They started experimenting with pre-consumer recycled versions in recent years and first added recycled spandex into the line in 2020. It has the same stretch properties as virgin spandex fiber, while allowing them to make use of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Where We Are

Although it provides critical performance, spandex is one of the least used materials in our products. Think of a jacket with stretch. The spandex may be 8% or 9% of the total fabric package. Still, Patagonia believes this is an opportunity to do more with what we already have—pre-consumer recycled spandex—instead of further extracting from our planet.

To accomplish that, they use spandex left over from the manufacturing process. This excess material is collected from production lines and then reincorporated into the raw-material production stage. By using this pre-consumer recycled spandex, we can divert waste from landfills and reduce our reliance on virgin petroleum.

For the Spring 2024 season, they're using recycled spandex in 37 styles, including our Happy Hike Studio Pants, Terravia Alpine Pants and Pack Out Hike Tights.

What’s Next

Patagonia's goal is to move away from using virgin petroleum sources by 2025, and using recycled spandex helps us get closer to that. Because recycled spandex still uses DMAc in the spinning process to create the new yarn, our material innovation team is actively seeking ways to reduce our use of this solvent. They’re also continuing to seek out more environmentally friendly alternatives that can match performance while also being easy to recycle for an end-of-life solution.