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Comment Sustainability

Fashion for Good consortium kicks off chemical-recycling initiative

By Mary Page Bailey |

The Fashion for Good consortium has initiated “Full Circle Textiles Project: Scaling Innovations in Cellulosic Recycling” – a first-of-its-kind consortium project. As much as 73% of clothing produced is sent to landfill or is incinerated, and of all new clothing made, less than 1% of material used comes from recycled sources. Focusing on cellulosic fibers, this project aims to validate and eventually scale promising technologies in chemical recycling from a select group of innovators to tackle these issues. Leading global organizations Laudes Foundation, Birla Cellulose, Kering, PVH Corp. and Target join Fashion for Good, to explore the disruptive solutions, with the goal of creating new fibers and garments from used clothing and ultimately drive industry-wide adoption. 

The Project’s overall aim is to investigate economically viable and scalable solutions for cellulosic chemical recycling to enable a closed loop system converting textile waste – of cotton and cotton-blend materials, to produce new man-made cellulosic fibers. 

To read the full project report, see fashionforgood.com/chemical-recycling.

Man-made cellulosic fibres (MMCF) such as Viscose/Rayon, Lyocell, Modal and Cupro, are most commonly derived from wood and have the third largest share in global fibre production after polyester and cotton. Man-made cellulosic fibres are of increasing importance; production of MMFCs has doubled in the last 30 years and is forecast for continued growth over the coming years.

“A bold approach is needed to identify and scale innovations that drive sustainable change in the fashion industry. This multi-stakeholder consortium, a first-of-its-kind, addresses the most important barriers to scaling innovation, setting the precedent for all industry players with ambitions for disruptive innovation to follow.” – Katrin Ley, Managing Director, Fashion for Good

Over an 18-month period, project partners will collaborate with innovators, Evrnu, Infinited Fiber Company, Phoenxt, Renewcell and Tyton BioSciences, to validate the potential of their technologies in this still nascent market. The recycled content produced by four of these innovators will be converted at Birla Cellulose’s state of the art pilot plants to produce high quality cellulosic fibers. From there, fibers will move through the project partners supply chains to be manufactured into garments. Given that Infinited Fiber Company produces industry-ready fiber through their process, their fiber will be delivered directly to the project partner’s supply chains for garment production. The Project will provide an assessment of the innovator’s environmental impact, technologies, recycled output and subsequent garments. These results along with the Project key learnings should determine how best to support and scale these promising solutions. 

“The need of the hour is to co-create sustainable solutions for the fashion industry that can be scaled rapidly and economically.” – Mr. Dilip Gaur, Business Director, Birla Cellulose, Aditya Birla Group

Textile recycling is a key focus for Fashion for Good as a crucial lever in driving the fashion industry towards closed loop production. A systemic change towards circularity will ultimately reduce the environmental impact of textile waste and potentially eliminate our dependence on virgin materials entirely. Furthermore, producing man-made cellulosic fibres through chemical recycling can help preserve ancient and endangered forests. Scalable solutions in high quality textile recycling technologies are therefore urgently needed. 

“Next generation solutions are the path to meeting the climate and biodiversity targets that scientists are calling for by 2030. We’ve seen promising momentum in recent years as we’ve worked with brands, producers and innovators to build strong market demand and Identified a great pipeline of game changing technologies. Now we need investment and broad industry adoption to make these Next Gen Solutions a commercially available reality.” – Nicole Rycroft Founder and Executive Director, Canopy 

Circularity in textile-to-textile recycling presents the fashion industry with a complex challenge based on the technology available today. While mechanical recycling is technically feasible, there are significant drawbacks; high purity feedstock, such as cotton, is required to produce output of sufficient quality and recovered fibers are of inferior strength when compared with the virgin equivalent. Chemical recycling is able to address these shortcomings; however, the technology has a number of barriers to overcome including a lack of financing, relatively small-scale output and limited offtake commitment from brands. 

The unique consortium of brands, fiber producers, manufacturers and innovators is an intentional convening of essential stakeholders in line with key learnings identified in the recently published report by Fashion for Good and Boston Consulting Group “Financing the Transformation in the Fashion Industry”. In order to bring disruptive solutions to scale, the industry needs bespoke consortiums of brands, supply chain partners, innovators, and investors with a shared technology focus to concentrate resources and de-risk investments.

“Chemical recycling faces multiple barriers to scale and industry adoption; a key barrier being risk-tolerant investment for innovations that can enable testing, refinement and scale. We hope that our investment in the Full Circle Textiles Project will enable wider adoption and catalytic investment across the industry to map the course of change together.” – Anita Chester, Head of Materials, Laudes Foundation (formerly C&A Foundation)

The formation of this targeted consortium expands on previous pilot project structures and is the first attempt at such a multi-stakeholder collaboration in the fashion industry, to create a streamlined ecosystem that drives a structured innovation process and ultimately, industry-wide adoption.  

 “Financing the Transformation in the Fashion Industry” details further actions required to scale sustainable solutions including a concerted, industry-wide effort to provide the incentives, financial means and focus to accelerate transformation to sustainable and circular practices. Thus, through this Project and its consortium, Fashion for Good hopes to inspire other stakeholders to follow suit in supporting chemical recycling innovators to trial and ultimately secure offtake, catalysing the transformation to a truly circular economy. 

To officially kickoff the Project, Fashion for Good hosted an online media briefing and panel discussion with guest panellists, Mr Dilip Gaur, Business Director of the Aditya Birla Group, Samantha Sims, Vice President, Environmental Sustainability & Product Stewardship, PVH Corp., Christine Goulay, Head of Sustainable Innovation, Kering, Nicole Rycroft, Founder & Executive Director, Canopy and Katrin Ley, Managing Director of Fashion for Good. The media briefing outlined the scope of the project, introduced the selected innovators and consortium partners, as well as opening the floor to questions from invited media.

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