The gap in the textiles industry

February 7, 2018

With a growing emphasis on measuring circularity, the Textiles Team has taken a keen focus on key data needed to close the gap within our sector.

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At Circle Economy, we have the distinct privilege of working with a broad range of companies, organisations and individuals to facilitate the transition to a circular economy. Our team is in a unique position to address some of the most fundamental issues of the linear world and facilitate the rise of a future without waste.

The Circle Textiles Programme, one of our longest running sector initiatives, has been actively engaged in the transition to circular textiles since 2014. During this time we have been investigating the topics and issues defined in several recent reports by Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Reverse Resources, GreenBlue, Global Fashion Agenda,  European Clothing Action Plan (ECAP), Valuing your Clothes, Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain, digging deep to identify gaps, and uncovering potential for the future of circular textiles.

One problematic chasm that must be bridged is the lack of information about textile excess. This “waste”, be it post-consumer, pre-consumer, post-industrial or something else, is not well documented, and yet the fundamental component of circular textiles is returning these materials to the beginning of the supply chain. Without key data points as a baseline, it’s pretty tough to measure impact. It’s even harder to know where to begin…

With a rapidly growing number of companies and individuals investing both human and financial resources in making an impact within textiles, it’s time to get more details on textile excess, set the baseline and enable the measurement of our collective efforts. When the Fibersort project kicked off in 2017, we seized this perfect opportunity to shine a powerful ray of light into one critical corner of the divide: What is in post-consumer textiles? With this information, our team knew we could share valuable insights with brands, textile collectors / sorters, and recycling technologies, and work together to shape a better, non-linear industry.

Last fall we got our hands dirty and got some answers. With the help of AMFI, Wargön Innovation, the Dutch Clothing Mountain, and the Fibersort Project Partners, we sorted 5000 kg of post-consumer textiles from across Northwest Europe. Check out the results here. Moving forward, we will increase the sample size, update the data, share insights with industry stakeholders, and collect more critical information to accelerate the transition to circularity.

This is a collective effort. No single company or organization can do it alone, and we want to know what you need to know to make that next step toward circularity. Your questions will inform how we shape our work now and in the future.

Are you also looking into post-consumer textile flows? If so, we’d like to hear from you.

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