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Accelerating Circularity Puts Spent Denim and Textiles to Good Use

After an extensive effort to research, map, and identify expertise and infrastructure to accelerate the move to circular systems, Accelerating Circularity Project is going to the trial phase in the U.S. and Europe to demonstrate what is possible and to measure environmental savings.

Trials will showcase the ability to mechanically and chemically recycle cotton, and polyester and cotton blends from post-consumer and post-industrial feedstocks that meet commercial requirements. Accelerating Circularity has been working to identify circular systems for textile-to-textile products for the past 18 months.  The organization believes that spent textiles are too good to waste and the ever-increasing environmental impact of waste generation is too big to continue to endure.

The mission of Accelerating Circularity is 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 supporting the reduction of the industry’s environmental impacts.

“Our work has been based on collaborative efforts of the entire circular textile system, as no one company can make the changes required to develop functioning textile-to-textile circular systems” Accelerating Circularity founder Karla Magruder said. “Having all the participants in the circular textile-to-textile system sign on is critical to our work. We have had great support of our mission by major brands and retailers and are now about to demonstrate real products made in circular systems.”

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The categories of products for demonstration include denim, T-shirts, towels and fleece products. Those already agreeing to participate in the trials include 1888 Mills, Ambercycle, CirTex, Contempora Fabrics, Eastman, Gap Inc., Giotex, Give Back Box, Goodwill Industries of Southern Florida, Kontoor Brands, Lenzing, Martex, Milliken & Co., Parkdale Mills, Cone Mills, Recover, TOMRA Sorting Solutions, Unifi, VF Corp., Waste Management and Wearable Collections.

“Fostering change is never easy and it takes a willingness to work in new ways,” Alice Hartley, director of global sustainability at Gap and board director of Accelerating Circularity, said. “We have been involved from the inception of this program, as Gap’s aim is to reimagine the way business can change the world.”

Tricia Carey, director of global business development at Lenzing, said Accelerating Circularity Project has gathered the right stakeholders at one table to take action on circularity.

As the only commercial, man-made cellulosic fiber producer in the Americas, Lenzing participated in the chemical recycling trial utilizing pulp from cotton waste and wood pulp to make Tencel lyocell with Refibra technology. The successful trials to produce Refibra technology at its Mobile, Ala., production is a first step to driving regional circularity.

Trials requirements include standard minimum order quantities, performance specifications and esthetic considerations. During the trials, data will be collected on logistics, volumes of recycled content, and any gaps and challenges within the system.

Trial goals are to identify if what currently exists can support the production of circular products and then outline the gaps that need support and development for textile-to-textile circularity to be scaled.