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How Will Fashion Transition to ‘Robust Circularity?’ New Report Offers Some Ideas

Accelerating Circularity Inc. has released a “Modeling and Linking Report” proposing links and material flows in a circular textile-to-textile system.

Building on the organization’s 2020 research on used textiles, collectors, sorters, preprocessors and recyclers that showed opportunities and gaps, the report illustrates models that will be tested in upcoming Circular Textile System trials.

“The future of circular textile-to-textiles systems must start now,” Karla Magruder, founder and president of Accelerating Circularity, said. “Our models include both old and new system actors to support the transition to robust circularity.”

To frame these models, Accelerating Circularity proposes a textile use case hierarchy that emphasizes maximizing a material’s environmental and economic value, and demonstrates the need to develop quality feedstocks for mechanical and chemical recycling technologies.

The group then presents material sorting matrices to facilitate that development. Next, Accelerating Circularity shows new links that will be formed among various nodes in the system, and models circular textile material flows from the perspectives of multiple system participants. Finally, it demonstrates how these models might function in the real world by tracing the stories of specific hypothetical circular products.

The report acts as a framework for the Circular Textile System Trials that the organization will launch this spring. All tools, intelligence and knowledge developed by or in collaboration with Accelerating Circularity will be made public to support the transition of the entire industry towards making circularity a reality.

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A key goal of the “Textile Use Case Hierarchy” is to define circulation pathways for spent textiles and identify best or highest-value use for collected materials to establish a viable circular systems marketplace.

In this framework, collectors establish the availability of volumes and types of materials, sorters know what is available and how it needs to be sorted, aggregators know likely bale specifications, preprocessors know what services are required, recyclers know what volumes and types of materials available, and brands and retailers are fluent in designing for recycling, according to the report.

The hierarchy also aims to incorporate all textile-related industries–apparel, home textiles, hospitality, uniforms and industrial laundry–and create knowledge and tools that support scaling and replication as well as support infrastructure and knowledge development to prevent loss of material intelligence.

Goals are also to educate consumers to avoid the municipal solid waste stream, establish metrics and collect data to evaluate the availability and direction of flows for used textiles from all current sources, such as landfill, secondhand market, consumers, brands and retailers and manufacturing, and develop sorting hierarchies for materials identified as textile-to-textile recycling feedstocks.

Accelerating Circularity is a collaborative industry project developed to accelerate the textile industry’s move to circular from linear supply chains. It was founded in 2019 with a mission to establish systems that will use the embedded value and resources in existing textiles for new products, reducing the millions of tons of textile waste annually going into landfills and thereby supporting the reduction of the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.