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Dollar bills pass through our hands all the time, but we rarely stop to think about where the money comes from. In the late 1800s, when a single currency system was established, the bills were sustainably produced from waste fabric from the fashion industry. That’s right: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were printed on fibers processed from unwanted materials, entirely compiled from recycled scraps. But a recent article published over at the Washington Post last month sheds light on how the fashion world’s love of figure-hugging jeans since the ’90’s has wreaked havoc on currency production, tainting the waste scraps with spandex and rendering them useless.

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The company responsible for supplying the paper for the currency to be printed on was, and still is, Crane. For over a century Crane has relied on discarded denim sold by the garment industry for its cotton fibers. Crane would then bleach and process the fabric and rewove it into bills, and around 30 per cent of the cotton used came from leftover denim.

But then came the influx of spandex (trademarked Lycra) around 20 years ago which was blended with the denim to produce figure-hugging jeans. This was catastrophic for Crane; even the most minute strand of spandex could contaminate a batch of the paper to then be used for the currency. To separate the fibers would prove far too difficult for the company. So, as the trend to merge spandex and denim has continued, Crane has had to look elsewhere for materials to create the currency. This has unfortunately put a stop to the use of waste materials and has meant Crane now has to go directly to the source of the cotton, at the cost of helping keep the planet green.

[Via the Washington Post]