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FibreTrace, Circular Systems Tackle Recycled Cotton Traceability

Literally every second a truckload of textiles is emptied into a landfill or incinerated somewhere in the world, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

With European textile waste now weighing in at 5.8 million tons annually, regulators are stepping in to support solutions that turn that waste into value, the European Environment Agency (EAA) said. With obligations for EU countries to build circularity into design looming and growing calls for increased environmental accountability, retailers are looking for regenerative and recycled textile options.

In that vein, textile innovation company Circular Systems joined forces with FibreTrace to implement physical traceability technology into Texloop RCOT recycled cotton globally.

Texloop, launched in 2018, is Circular Systems’ global textile recycling platform. Texloop recycling upgrades post-industrial waste and pre/post-consumer cotton textile waste into RCOT, a recycled cotton fiber that uses up to 99 percent less water than conventional cotton, 54 less energy and emits 20 percent less carbon.

FibreTrace ensures information integrity via physical traceability markers suspended in these recycled fibers. The technology securely collects, stores and communicates important supply chain information. The traceability solution secures that the fiber itself is traced and can reduce the chance of human error (or fraud) as it doesn’t rely on documentation or labeling.

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“Circular Systems is honored to be working in strategic partnership with FibreTrace, which we see as the new industry standard technology for traceability,” Isaac Nichelson, CEO of Circular Systems, said. “This partnership will enable traceability on all of our Texloop and Agraloop fiber products by 2024. FibreTrace enables the Texloop platform to bring much needed traceability and transparency to the world of recycled cotton, and in doing so we will help to improve the authenticity and quality of the global recycled cotton sector.”

Last year, the European Commission announced a principal strategy to improve textile products’ social and environmental impact on the EU market by 2030. The Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles seeks to ensure products are long-lived and recyclable, made chiefly of recycled fibers. By prioritizing recycled materials, textile waste reduction is possible. It could let viable material in waste streams create added value, incentivizing circularity and, ideally, weakening the industry’s reliance on virgin fibers. Following the strategy would work toward finally decoupling textile waste generation from the industry’s growth as circularity becomes the new norm.

Plus, the Directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence adopted by the European Commission last February is designed to create a system of accountability around socially and environmentally responsible practices for European companies. With recycling systems positioned to serve local supply chains globally, Texloop can benefit from FibreTrace’s physical traceability.

“Textile impact and supply chain traceability are inextricably linked,” FibreTrace said in a statement. “Without an authenticated, traceable custody of supply, retailers are unable to quantify, communicate or report on their garments’ true impact. Lack of evidence leaves customers asking, ‘Are recycled fibers green, or greenwashing?’”

FibreTrace will be activated in all Texloop and Agraloop products by 2024.

In mid-January, the traceability technologies company released FibreTrace Mapped, a free and turnkey digital traceability solution that maps the global textile supply chain from fiber to retail. The platform is system agnostic and can integrate with various product and data management systems and tools, allowing users to upload order and shipping documentation and incorporate existing environmental and social compliance credentials. FibreTrace Verified went live in March 2021 and connects digital traceability with physical technology to provide integrity and authentication.

Transparency isn’t just a buzzword for sustainability-seeking companies, either.

A December 2021 report by Avery Dennison found that 60 percent of fashion consumers want more transparency about the production journey of their clothes; more than 40 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed, over 50 percent in Europe and almost 70 percent in China said they want access to more information about how their clothes were made. This starkly contrasts what Fashion Revolution’s 2022 Fashion Transparency Index found, which examined 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers and ranked them according to what information they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts in their operations and supply chain. The good news is that more major brands than ever (48 percent) now publish a list of their first-tier manufacturers. Fifty percent, however, still disclose zero information about their supply chains.

“It is frustrating to see brands’ continued lack of transparency on critical issues like their waste volumes, carbon and water footprints and workers being paid a living wage. When there is a lack of transparency on the issue itself, we cannot reasonably understand if what is being done is robust enough to drive the impact we so urgently need,” Liv Simpliciano, policy and research manager at Fashion Revolution, said in the report. “Transparency empowers civil society and workers’ representatives and until brands publicly disclose all the information necessary to hold them accountable for their impacts, being un-transparent feels like a deliberate strategy to reinforce the status-quo.”