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Fashion for Good Launches US Textile Waste Project

After forays in Europe and India, Fashion for Good’s Sorting for Circularity initiative is coming to America.

The 18-month initiative, which the Amsterdam-based sustainable innovation platform announced Tuesday, seeks to take the most “representative snapshot” of textile waste composition generated in the United States and, in so doing, establish the business case for textile-to-textile recycling in the country.

“We are excited to be taking the Sorting for Circularity Project into new territory and entering the North-American market,” said Katrin Ley, managing director at Fashion for Good. “After successful initiatives across such large regions as Europe and India, the U.S. presents a great opportunity with the potential for incredible positive impacts considering the volume of the consumer market and post-consumer textiles landscape.”

The Sorting for Circularity U.S.A. Project is backed by the firepower of several notable brands and retailers, including Adidas, Levi Strauss & Co, Target and Zara owner Inditex, which will serve as facilitators. H&M, Nordstrom and materials innovation firm Eastman have signed up as external partners. Adidas and H&M are also collaborating with Fashion for Good in the New Cotton Project, whose goal is creating circular products made using textile waste.

Textile waste is now the fastest-growing segment of the United States waste stream. According to research carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, textile waste has swelled by a whopping 811 percent between 1960 and 2015. In 2018, Americans generated 17 million tons of textiles representing 5.8 percent of total municipal solid waste. More than 85 percent of this ended up landfilled or incinerated.

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Understanding the material composition, volume and location of used textiles, as well as expanding textile recycling infrastructure, will be key to ensuring that this waste doesn’t go to, well, waste. While demand for recycled fibers is growing, access to a ready supply of feedstock is stymying efforts to provide them, Fashion for Good noted. By scaling textile collection and sorting, the industry could divert castoff textiles, categorize them according to their highest-quality end use and satisfy the needs of brands looking for more non-virgin inputs as part of their sustainability strategies.

The Sorting for Circularity U.S.A. Project will focus on two major assessments: one, an “extensive” consumer survey that will trace a garment’s typical journey from purchase point to its end of use, and the other a “comprehensive” analysis of the nation’s post-consumer textile mix using near-infrared spectroscopy technology provided by Matoha, a London-based maker of material identification devices.

Resource Recycling Systems, the project’s co-lead, will lead the dissemination and analysis of the data-gathering process with the support of the New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management, Circle Economy and Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles, better known as SMART.

“This project will lay the foundation to make informed investment and infrastructure decisions, and a compelling business case for monetization through recycling,” Ley said.