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Beyond Green, Circle Economy’s signature textiles event, held in collaboration with the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, is an annual symposium on the future of fashion that uses the collective power of students and industry to tackle critical issues throughout the fashion system. The next edition of Beyond Green will be held on the 20th of October 2017 and will build on the momentum of the initiatives and targets the circular textiles and fashion arena has launched and set over the past quarter. It will move beyond the ‘why?’ and set to work on answering the much needed question of ‘how?’

On the agenda? Our 5 step plan to circularity! To give you a preview of what’s to come, we will be releasing a series of blogs to individually introduce each of the 5 steps over the next few weeks. Sign up for updates on Beyond Green or keep an eye out on our website and social media accounts for upcoming blogs in this series!

The first step brands need to take on the way to circularity is to create demand for (and demand!) recycled fibres, and actively encourage a sourcing culture and buying standard that support recycled content. The good news is: they already can, and so can you.

With a rising global population and decreasing availability of natural resources, curbing the demand for virgin fibres is more imperative than ever. Growing crops like cotton and flax are water and land-intensive, when both resources are set to become scarcer (and no less important for food security) in the future. In fact, raw material prices are already on the rise, and it makes little sense to increase our consumption of synthetics when that requires more oil extraction — another dwindling and volatile commodity…

As the industry begins to revamp its current systems, brands can start weaning themselves off of virgin fibres and introducing recycled content into their modus operandi. Critics may argue that the supply is not there yet, but the supply/demand relationship is positively correlated: the more brands demand recycled material, the more widely available and affordable these fabrics will become.

So what options do brands already have?

Keeping it in the family
Fibre-to-fibre recycling

Sourcing fibres and fabrics made with recycled textile inputs reduces pressure on our natural environment by reprocessing the textiles that are already in the system. There already are innovations that allow brands to source recycled textiles without having to sacrifice quality or aesthetics. Mechanical recyclers, such as Brightloops, Recover, and Wolkat, continue to make great strides in creating yarns whose quality is comparable to virgin, and are moving toward a competitive price with a fraction of the environmental impact. Meanwhile, blossoming chemical recycling solutions, like the ones  Worn Again, Ioniqa and EvRnu are developing will help to fast track the textile industry into the future.

One’s waste is another’s treasure
Waste-to-fibre recycling

A myriad of new materials are being pushed to the market, challenging the industry to rethink what fabric is and what it can be. Many innovations focus on capturing and converting natural (bi)products that are currently  wasted into new pulps, yarns, and fabrics: cow manure to fabric, citrus fruit to garments, mushrooms to leather… the list goes on. Such new materials have the capacity to broaden and therefore diversify our materials library, decreasing our dependency on mega fibres such as cotton and polyester.

Sound good? Here’s what you can do to get started:

  • Assess your collections to identify key product groups, i.e. bestsellers and those never-out-of-stock items, that are suitable to convert to recycled content. The constant and consistent demand of these products will allow you to smartly integrate more recycled content in the long term, meet your sustainability goals, and begin to reduce the price of recycled textiles by increasing the demand!
  • Start sourcing circular fibres, yarns, and fabrics. This will create incentive and support for those suppliers that are diligently producing recycled content.

Curious for more? Stay tuned for our next blog and make sure to sign up for updates on Beyond Green!

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Are you a brand sourcing recycled content? We’d love to hear from you!

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