Twelve brands in the fashion and textile industries are trying to forge ahead in sustainability by creating a circular model for commercial production.
Funded by the European Union and dubbed the “New Cotton Project,” the consortium of labels, manufacturers, research institutes, innovators and suppliers has been formed to demonstrate how circular fashion and sustainability can be achieved.
In the European Commission’s EU Circular Economy Action Plan, the importance of making sustainable products more attainable, reducing waste and leading global efforts on circularity are highlighted. These efforts are seen as essentials for Europe to drive sustainable growth. The EU-funded New Cotton Project includes partners from Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Germany, The Netherlands, Slovenia and Turkey. Together they are implementing a circular model for the textile industry. The program has received more than $8 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under a grant agreement.
For three years, textile waste will be collected, sorted and repurposed into Infinited Fiber Company’s cellulose-based textile fibers. Infinited Fiber Company’s cofounder and chief executive officer Petri Alava noted that “the enthusiasm and commitment with which the consortium have come together to work toward a cleaner, more sustainable future for fashion is truly inspirational.”
The regenerative technology involves converting shredded textiles to cellulose carbamate fibers. While Infinited Fiber is leading the consortium with its patented technology to regenerate cellulose-rich textile waste into cotton-like fibers, manufacturers Inovafil, Tekstina and Kipas will use the regenerative fibers to make yarns, woven fabrics and denim, respectively.
Adidas and companies in the H&M Group will make and sell clothing made from the fabrics. Adidas is also tracking feedback from consumers and is developing a take-back program to reintegrate returned apparel back into the loop.
To illustrate the need for this new venture, supporters of the New Cotton Project made the point that most of the environmental problems in the textile industry are due to the raw materials used, such as cotton and fossil fuel-based fibers like polyester and viscose. In unveiling the project on Tuesday, organizers of the New Cotton Project noted that fashion brands are producing twice as much apparel as they did 20 years ago.
An apparel take-back program will be set up to collect clothing that can no longer be worn in order to use it for the regenerative process to create new fibers.
The New Cotton Project makes good on the EU’s priority to achieve circularity in the textile industry, and also highlights the great need to accelerate development of technologies that design and produce sustainable and circular bio-based materials.
It also involves the analysis and insights from academic institutions. Finland’s Aalto University plans to study the new ecosystem and circular business models to help pinpoint what would be the most effective business model for the project. Frankenhuis will sort and pre-process the textile waste, and South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences will create a tech solution for the continuous processing of textile waste fibers for pre-treatment. On another level, REvolve Waste will collect and manage data on textile waste to estimate feedstock availability in Europe and to define the grade of the used textile waste.
The Amsterdam-based Fashion For Good will handle training, oversee the communications for the project, handle branding, disseminate information and help in other capacities with support from Aalto University and Infinited Fiber.