The Circular Economy Is Now
The key suppliers to help brands achieve circularity as outlined in our latest 360° Innovation book
The long-term viability of the traditional 'take-make-dispose' model is questioned by sustainability experts and consumers a-like due to the large quantities of waste and the devastating effect on the environment. The IPCC climate report released in August declared a ‘code red’ for humanity.
Circularity could be the key to a more sustainable future. Alex Ingildsen, CCO at LTP Group states
“This is an exciting opportunity to unleash our collective potential. We aim to help brands become more responsible and mindful whilst maintaining a healthy business”
The latest edition of LTP’s 360° Innovation book showcases the latest developments from leading suppliers, including those striving to make circularity a reality. Here, LTP’s fabric sourcing & innovation manager Laura Didžiokienė and designer/trend forecaster Chantell Fenton discuss the suppliers that are championing a Circular Economy.
What is Circularity?
Let’s start with the basics, a circular model refers to a system in which all garments can be reused, recycled, or returned to the earth (by either being biodegradable or compostable). At it’s core, the circular economy is “a model that decouples economic growth from resource constraints” by reducing reliance on virgin materials. Instead, the aim is to keep materials functioning at their highest level at all times, preventing would-be waste from reaching landfills, said Ella Jasmin, research manager of the U.K.'s Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Circular Systems S.P.C (Social Purpose Corporation) is a material science company that provides brands with scalable solutions to help transition to a closed-loop process. The company aims to create a net positive impact on the environment, society, and economy through 3 innovative processes. One, the Agraloop BioFibre™ transforms leftover food and medicine crops into scalable high-value natural fibre for fashion products. The specialist wet processing technique purifies cellulose fibres from oilseed hemp/flax, CBD hemp, banana, and pineapple stems and leaves into soft ready to spin yarns. The result is a new natural fibre that is mindfully sourced for circularity.
Circular Systems has also pioneered a textile waste-to-fibre platform, Texloop™. The company reclaims natural and synthetic fibres from post-industrial, pre-consumer, and post-consumer textile waste. The processing allows true upcycling of complex textile waste streams to create natural fibre, synthetic fibre, and blends for premium products.
Circular Systems completes their arsenal of products with the patent-pending hybrid yarn spinning technology Orbital™ which can create high-performance, natural-fibre-rich materials with Texloop recycled fibre, Agraloop BioFibre, and other organic and recycled fibres.
Orbital's technology produces inherent wicking and fast dry performance materials, even with 50%-70% natural fibre composition, eliminating the need for chemical finishes to create high-performance fabrics. In addition to moisture management, knit and woven fabrics made with Orbital are also anti-pilling, reduced synthetic fibre fragment release, and easy-care for next-level functionality.
Circular Systems has furthered their mission by partnering with Portugal-based sustainable textiles company Tintex to create a complete, circular material solution from raw materials to finished fabrics with natural dye. The collaboration combines the Texloop RCOT Primo yarns with Colorau Natural Dye Technology for high-quality low-impact textiles with circularity at the core.
Food Waste Solutions
Materials made from food-derived waste are scaling to commercial level, as discussed in our recent article “Edible Materials Provide Food For Thought”. Innovative supplier, A. Sampaio’s showcase a new fibre that combines banana and pineapple fibres, both of which are a by-product of the food industry. This fibre provides a multitude of benefits including requiring less water to grown than cotton because the material is a natural product of the fruits´ cultivation. In addition no chemicals are added to develop the leaves growth and the textile application negates the necessity to burn the leaves which releases black carbon into the atmosphere. A. Sampaio’s eco-friendly fibres are 100% biodegradable and are dyeable in a wide range of colours.
Another innovative fibre in this space is Woocoa, a coconut and hemp vegan ‘wool’ fibre. This animal-free wool is treated with fungi-based enzymes extracted from oyster mushrooms. The sustainable fibre won the PETA Prize for Animal-Free Wool at the 2018 Biodesign Challenge.
From Product to Product-as-a-Service
Another aspect of circularity is products as services. Brands are increasingly experimenting with the idea of themselves as service providers with lease access (not ownership) to product. Read more about the subscription model in our recent article.
Houdini have led the way in this area. Since 2012 the brand have offered a rental service in store. Giving customers the opportunity to access the clothes they need when they need them. This model delivers on both convenience and sustainability.
When designing apparel as a service, longevity through product durability is a key factor. In order to keep apparel and the raw materials in use for as long as possible, products need to be of the highest quality to begin with. Working with a manufacturer who can deliver on this is paramount.
Old Tires Are Fashion’s New Fabric
BASF is breaking new ground by recycling old tires with the ChemCycling project. The chemical recycling process uses old tires and primarily plastic waste. In a thermochemical process, basic chemicals are extracted from these plastics and are fed to the BASF Verbund as a raw material. Applying a mass balance approach, these chemicals can be assigned to certain products manufactured in the Verbund such as their Ultramid® Ccycled™ (PA6) products. This replaces and saves fossil resources.
MITI has developed a new sustainable high-performance textile proposal called RUBBERMADE by Greenperforming. The fabric is designed to reduce waste and safeguard the environment. Rubbermade is a high-performance stretch fabric made with post-consumer recycled polyamide obtained from used and end-of-life rubber tires. The tires are transformed into a new synthetic fibre through a pyrolysis process developed by BASF. In this way the environmental impact caused by the petroleum-based fibres is reduced, replacing them with materials deriving from the recycling of plastic from renewable resources.
VAUDE are the first to use such a fabric in their collection. In March 2022 the brand will release a trouser made from chemically recycled scrap tires. The project is a collaboration between BASF, fabric weaver Long Advance and VAUDE. René Bethmann, Innovation Manager at VAUDE states
“We want to be a pioneer in building up a circular economy for our functional clothing. Our goal is to make a measurable contribution for the environment. This clearly includes reducing the amount of primary fossil resources used, as well as cutting down on the CO2 emitted when making our products. By using Ultramid® Ccycled™, we can reduce the carbon footprint by more than half (based on the HIGG Material Sustainability Index).”
On Demand Printing
A key aspect of circularity is considering all aspects of the garment journey. Why not combine sustainable fabric with on-demand printing from Kornit Printing, the worldwide market leader in eco digital textile production technologies. The innovative supplier recently released its 2020 Impact and Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) Report. The company wants to revolutionise the industry’s supply chain, making it more reliable and sustainable through on-demand manufacturing therefore developing the Kornit Atlas MAX. By 2026 Kornit Digital’s sustainable on-demand solutions are expected to enable the production of approximately 2.5 billion apparel items in a responsible manner to deliver. Kornit Digital’s on-demand production ecosystem uses considerably less water and energy and generates far less greenhouse gas emissions relative to traditional analog production processes. As the cornerstone of an efficient micro-factory production model, Kornit’s technology uses safe and sustainable consumables to enable proximity production, eliminating the logistical waste, vulnerability, and time to market associated with multinational supply chains. Fast-rising online fashion retailer ASOS and its supplier Fashion-Enter are implementing Kornit’s Presto digital textile printing system to explore the future opportunities presented by on-demand manufacturing.
Collaboration Is key To Circularity
Transitioning from a linear to a circular economy is no easy task but the good news is you don’t have to go it alone. Ingildsen states
“To accelerate progress the industry must collaborate. Co-creation is key. Brands, manufacturers, suppliers and thought-leaders must work together to collectively reject the ‘take, make and dispose’ extractive model in favour of a closed-loop system”
Finding a strategic supply chain partner is a powerful enabler of circularity. Brands should also consider joining industry initiatives that bring together thought leaders to debate and tackle the industry’s biggest challenges. One example of such groups is The Sport & Outdoor Apparel Network, launched last year as part of LTP’s Value Added Services. For more information please feel free to contact Alex at the LTP Group email@example.com.
How to get your copy of the New 360° Innovation book
The latest edition highlights everything you need to know about textiles, trims and technologies. All existing customer should contact Alex for their exclusive copy of the New 360° Innovation book.
About Chantell Fenton
Chantell is an experienced performance sportswear designer and trend forecaster, with a passion for wellness, technology and function-first design. Chantell has an in-depth knowledge of how to spot and translate the must-have trends and macro shifts for the sports and outdoor industry. For more details visit www.chantellfenton.com