July 2, 2020

Spotlight on the innovators closing the circularity gap in the textile and apparel industry in the Netherlands

Ola Bąkowska
Ola Bąkowska
Project Manager – Circle Textiles Programme
Ola Bąkowska
Jade Wilting
Project Manager – Circle Textiles Programme

Written by Ola Bąkowska, with additional reporting by Jade Wilting

The Netherlands is 24.5% circular, a figure recently unveiled in our latest Circularity Gap Report. This is three times the global average — 8.6% circular –, but there is still a long way to go before the country reaches its ambition of becoming 100% circular.

With that said, innovators across the country and across sectors are actively paving the way.

Here, we focus on the trailblazers closing the textiles circularity gap in the Netherlands: who are they, what are they doing, and how are they closing the circularity gap?

The 7 key elements of the circular economy

The 7 key elements of the circular economy framework anchors almost everything we do at Circle Economy. The result of a mapping exercise done in 2017, the framework describes the full breadth of circular strategies available to industry and is continuously revised by our team to reflect new developments and technologies.

In light blue, on the left: core elements of the circular economy; on the right, in dark blue: enabling elements of the circular economy.

This framework will also guide us through the innovators we are shining a spotlight on today.

The innovators

Hacked_By: Designing for the future

Behind the Hacked_By brand stands design duo Alexander van Slobbe and Francisco van Benthum, recognisable for their unique aesthetics based on deconstruction, mixing and collage. The pair creates new garments using pre-consumer textile waste sourced from different retailers and use another Dutch innovator, i-did, to produce the garments locally.

What makes it circular? Designing products using textile waste is one of the many practical ways of engaging in circular design. Production offcuts, and unsold stock are used as a resource, preventing the need for virgin fibre.

ChainPoint: Incorporating digital technology

ChainPoint created a centralised database system in partnership with GOTS and Textile Exchange, both global leaders in textile standards and certifications, to integrate the scope of certificates, transaction certificates (including GOTS, OCS, RCS, GRS, RDS and RWS), and enable volume reconciliation of organic materials.

What makes it circular? Centralised database systems increase traceability across the complex apparel supply chains and help prevent the unverified duplication of certificates. Providing access to reliable data also means improved transparency, and the authentication of claims about organic, responsible or recycled content allows for more responsible and circular sourcing.

The Renewal Workshop: Preserving and extending what’s already made

With its second workshop having opened in Amsterdam in 2019, the Renewal Workshop provides a range of services to brands and retailers to recover value from both pre-consumer textiles — garments that never made it to consumer wardrobes — and post-consumer textiles –those that have been worn and returned. Through repair and cleaning, the Renewal Workshop transforms pre-consumer waste into new garments to be sold again.

What makes it circular? Sorting, cleaning and repairing or remanufacturing enable garments to reenter the loop, rather than contribute to a growing mountain of textiles waste. The Renewal Workshop helps maximise the value of unsold and collected stock to brands and retailers, by providing a system that gives a second life to garments.

Circos: Rethinking the business model

Circos is a kids and maternity wear subscription service. Customers can order a bundle of clothes, use it and then return it. This maximises the active service life of garments that are traditionally only worn for a limited amount of time by one user (the child or the expectant parent).

What makes it circular? The key value of subscription-based models is that garments are worn by multiple users, as and when they need them rather than sitting idle in a wardrobe. Depending on the displacement rate — to what extent is the rented clothing eliminating the need to buy new clothes? — this circular model may also limit the consumer’s environmental footprint. At the end of the garment’s life, when it’s no longer fit for reuse, Circos repurposes its materials into new products.

Loop.a life: Using waste as a resource

Loop.a life has developed a circular production process for their knitwear collections. The wool and cotton they use comes from post-consumer garments discarded and sorted in the Netherlands, that is then blended with additional sustainable or recycled materials to create yarn for the final product.

What makes it circular? Loop.a life is not only creating knitwear from post-consumer textiles, but also collaborating with designers, companies and municipalities on creating a circular textiles industry in the Netherlands. Some of their collaborative efforts include: the ‘Fryske sweater’ made in honor of Leeuwarden Cultural Capital 2018, ‘Warm Sweater Day’ made with the Dutch Climate Association, and developing recycled yarns together with the local manufacturer Enschede Textielstad.

DyeCoo: Prioritising regenerative resources

DyeCoo has patented a chemical-free industrial dyeing technology based on CO₂ instead of water. The quantity of chemicals involved is drastically reduced, while faster dyeing cycles lead to a major drop in energy consumption.

What makes it circular? At the core of circularity lies the idea of creating healthy material flows to limit the use of natural resources and keep the resources circulating for as long as possible. With its innovative technology, DyeCoo is limiting the use of water — one of the most precious, if not the most precious, resources on the planet. At the same time it promises to revolutionise the dye industry, typically a very low-margin industry that contributes to polluting trillions of liters of water in manufacturing countries.

Schijvens: Collaborating to create joint value

Schijvens, together with Albert Heijn, one of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands, developed workwear made from post-consumer recycled garments and recycled PET. The workwear is based on yarn that is 30% post-consumer textiles, 20% cutting waste (off-cuts or factory floor waste) and 50% recycled polyester. As a result, this yarn falls into class A of the Made-By benchmark, an environmental benchmark for the most commonly used fibres in the garment industry. Albert Heijn shop floor employees assessed and tested the design of the clothes themselves, and the workwear is now being rolled out to most Albert Heijn employees.

What makes it circular? Working together throughout the supply chain to increase transparency and create joint value is an important prerequisite for a circular economy. This collaboration with one of the country’s leading employers — Albert Heijn employs over 100,000 people across the Netherlands — has incredible potential in mainstreaming the use of recycled inputs in textiles. Schijvens also published its list of partners from all around the world on their website for increased transparency and accountability.

Where do we go from here?

The circular apparel ecosystem is not there yet, but as illustrated by the examples above, keeping resources in use for longer or creatively reprocessing them can generate a lot of value to all stakeholders involved– from an economic, environmental and social perspective.

The Circle Textiles Programme at Circle Economy is working towards a zero waste industry by preventing and reducing the textiles waste mountain.

While the list of circular innovators in the Netherlands is long — and still growing — most textiles and apparel brands are still not fully embracing circularity yet.

Photo: Nina Albada Jelgersma for Circle Economy

To increase their capacity to adopt circular strategies, the Circle Textiles Programme has developed On Course: a modular training that combines theory and practice and supports brands and manufacturers with circular strategy development. Through the training, we help brands better understand and practically apply the 7 key elements of the circular economy in their business, and explore more circular business cases for more inspiration. To learn more about On Course or to take the training, contact us here.

To learn more about and reach out to all the innovators working to close the textiles circularity gap in the Netherlands, please visit the Dutch Circular Textile Valley platform.

To learn more about key sectors for the Netherlands to triple its circularity rate, read the Circularity Gap Report, Netherlands.

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