The concept of textile circularity–turning old clothes or used materials back into fibers and fabrics–is getting ready to scale up as Zara’s parent and Milliken invest in a textile recycling startup and a more established player announces a new pilot across the pond.
Accelerating Circularity has launched polyester textile-to-textile trials in Europe. Accelerating Circularity’s mission is to design and implement commercial systems in which textile waste is repurposed as raw material through reuse and recycling, ensuring they are not incinerated or sent to landfills.
For the last year, Accelerating Circularity Europe has been working with its European Steering Committee, Spent Textile and brand and retailer working groups to research, map and identify expertise and infrastructure to accelerate the move to circular systems. This work is now complete and the next step is to move into the trial phases to demonstrate what is possible at scale.
The first trials will focus on post-consumer and post-industrial polyester textiles feedstocks. These will be the sources for mechanically and chemically recycled fibers.
“According to the EU (European Union) Commission Strategy, by 2030 textile products placed on the EU market will be long-lived and recyclable, to a great extent made of recycled fibers,” said Karla Magruder, Accelerating Circularity founder and president. “The circular textiles ecosystem will be thriving, driven by sufficient capacities for innovative fiber-to-fiber recycling, while the incineration and landfilling of textiles will be reduced to the minimum. Accelerating Circularity Europe trials are completely aligned with this strategy.”
Magruder noted that Accelerating Circularity Europe’s work has been based on collaborative efforts of more than 80 members of its working groups representing all levels of the value chain from the EU-27 plus members from Norway, Switzerland, the U.K., Morocco, and Turkey.
“Our goal with the textile-to-textile polyester trials is to demonstrate circular systems at scale so our participants will be able to really demonstrate the feasibility,” she said.
Dr. Martin Mayershofer, Research & Development at Sympatex, said national or international collection systems and infrastructures for end-of-life textiles must be established to effectively close the loop of textile waste.
“From an economic and efficiency perspective, but also from a consumer acceptance point of view, brand specific return systems only, will not be sufficient. Accelerating Circularity Europe systems trials for polyester will bring various players of a future circular textile value chain together to test and validate polyester fiber-to-fiber recycling at scale, here in Europe, and thus perfectly fulfill these requirements,” Mayershofer said. “At Sympatex, we believe, an industry-wide, common pursuit of circularity and reclosing the textile loop together are indispensable.”
Regina Goller, director of fabric and trim management for apparel at Jack Wolfskin, said true circularity will give synthetic fabrics that are essential for performance, comfort and protection multiple lives with minimal impact on the environment.
“Design for sustainability has been a driving force for Jack Wolfskin for decades,” Goller said. “By collaborating with our peers in the industry, together we will be able to create optimal systems and implement them throughout the marketplace.”
Accelerating Circularity Europe system trial partner for polyester include Amazon, Antex, Avery Dennison, Brav, Covation Biomaterials, Craghoppers, Elis Textil Service, Enviu, Erema Group, European Outdoor Group, Eurotex, GIZ/Partnership for Sustainable Textiles, Gr3n, Jack Wolfskin, Oberalp, Recyclatex Group, Reverse Resources, Sympatex, TEXAID, Vaude, WWF and Zalando.
In addition to the polyester trials, Accelerating Circularity Europe is planning a range of cellulosic trials of mechanically and chemically recycled cotton for circular knits and woven items with partners including Recover, Lenzing (Refibra), Inditex and Tomra.
Circ, a Danville, Va.-based textile recycling technology innovator, announced a $30 million Series B funding round.
The company, which is on a mission to recycle fashion waste back into textiles, specifically cotton, polyester and cotton-poly blends, said the round is led by Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures, along with additional investment from Zara owner Inditex, U.S. textile manufacturer Milliken and international investment group Lansdowne Partners.
“I think everybody’s recognizing that circularity is coming and it’s here to stay,” Circ CEO Peter Majeranowski wrote on LinkedIn. “It’s very much needed for the apparel industry.”
The round is also being supported by previous investors, including 8090 Partners, Alante Capital, Card Sound Capital, Circulate Capital, Envisioning Partners and Marubeni.
The latest infusion of capital will help Circ complete several commercial and brand partnerships that are already underway, according to Majeranowski. It will also help the company add to its staff count–Circ currently employs about 30 people and expects that number to climb to nearly 50.
Majeranowski said that while $30 million is a lot of money, the work his company is doing is capital intensive.
“I think when you look at what it’s going to take for the industry [to reach textile recycling at scale], it’s going to be billions and billions of dollars to do it, but we need to do it,” he added.
Earlier this year, Swedish textile-to-textile recycling innovator Renewcell signed a letter of intent with Daiwabo Rayon Co., a Japanese cellulosic fiber producer, for a long-term commercial collaboration around man-made cellulosic fiber production. The agreement affirms the two companies’ intent to work together to supply textile fibers made using Circulose, Renewcell’s 100 percent recycled textile raw material, to global fashion brands in the coming years.
Renewcell and Swiss HeiQ also signing a strategic partnership to manufacture circular HeiQ AeoniQ cellulose filament yarn from textile-to-textile recycled Circulose pulp supplied by Renewcell. The deal enables the incorporation of recycled raw materials in what the companies described as “the most modern, climate positive and environmentally friendly yarn production process” to allow for 100 percent circularity in the textile industry.