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These Big-Name Brands Are Taking the Recycled Poly Challenge

Textile Exchange and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action have launched a joint initiative to spur a further shift in the market toward the uptake of recycled polyester (rPET) and the associated reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs).

With 85 brands and suppliers already committed, the 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge aims to serve as an essential catalyst for change in the apparel and textile industry. The rPET Challenge petitions the apparel industry to commit to increasing the global percentage of recycled polyester to 45 percent at 17.1 million metric tons by 2025 from 14 percent today. The Challenge continues the successful acceleration that began with Textile Exchange’s 2017 Recycled Polyester Commitment.

The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge asks brands to commit to the most ambitious uptake target possible. High percentage rPET commitments from brands are essential to reaching the 2025 45 percent recycled volume target and for building critical mass to reach an absolute 90 percent recycled volume share by 2030, the groups said.

Helly Hansen is committed to reducing its dependency on fossil fuels and its overall environmental footprint,” said Rebecca Johansson, sustainability and research and development manager at the Norwegian outdoor apparel maker. “We recognize that transferring to the use of recycled raw materials is an important action toward that commitment and are proud to be part of the founding cohort of this joint industry initiative.”

Some of the other brands that have committed to date include Adidas, Athleta, Aware (by The Movement), Banana Republic, Focus Têxtil, G-Star Raw, H&M Group, House of Baukjen, Inditex Group, Itochu Corporation Textile Material section, J.Crew, Lululemon Athletica, Madewell, Mantis World, Mara Hoffman, Moose Knuckles, Nudie Jeans, Outerknown, Pact, prAna, Reformation, Sympatex Technologies, Varner, VF Corp. and White + Warren.

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“Since our initial use of recycled polyester in 2005, we have adopted rPET in a huge way, focusing on adopting 100 percent preferred fibers by 2025,” Rachel Lincoln, director of sustainability at prAna, said. “By using recycled polyester we not only create amazing, high performance garments, but we lessen our reliance on fossil fuels and prevent plastic from ending up in landfill.”

According to the Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2020, polyester (PET) is the most widely used fiber in the apparel industry, accounting for around 52 percent of the total volume of fibers produced globally. The apparel industry accounts for around 32 million tons of the 57 million tons of polyester used each year. Currently, only around 14 percent of this comes from recycled inputs, predominantly from post-consumer PET bottles.

Today, mechanically recycled polyester from plastic water bottles makes up the vast majority of recycled polyester, but chemical recycling, textile to textile recycling and other innovative technologies will be a necessary part of reaching the goal, the groups noted.

Companies committing to this initiative will be required to annually report their polyester consumption to Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) survey, which will track progress across all participating brands toward the collective goal. All information entered into the CFMB is entirely anonymous and aggregated across all annual report participants to show progress. Company information will never be singled out and published without a company’s explicit request or consent. Brands are required to report once per year by the CFMB deadline, but they have the option to participate in the full benchmark in full or solely to report polyester volumes.

“At Reformation, we have always taken a strong stance against sourcing conventional synthetics (aka fossil-fuel fabrics),” Carrie Freiman, director of sustainability at Reformation, said. “Taking part in the 2025 rPET Challenge is aligned with our brand’s circularity and climate action commitments and is a great show of cross-industry commitment for a more sustainable future.”

Textile Exchange will report annually on the 2025 rPET Challenge, utilizing 2019 volume data as a baseline and a view to accomplishing both Textile Exchange’s and the Fashion Charter’s overall commitment to staying within the 1.5-degree pathway.

Textile Exchange is a global nonprofit that manages and promotes a suite of leading industry standards, as well as collects and publishes critical industry data and insights that enable brands and retailers to measure, manage and track their use of preferred fiber and materials. With a growing membership representing leading brands, retailers, and suppliers, Textile Exchange accelerates the use of preferred fibers and increases the adoption of standards and certifications across the global textile industry.

The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action is an industry-led initiative, convened by the United Nations Climate Change. Its mission is to drive the fashion industry to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions no later than 2050 in line with keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. The Fashion Charter provides a platform that enables collaboration between brands, retailers, suppliers, financial institutions and industry bodies to identify and scale climate solutions to drive the industry towards a 1.5-degree future.