Long considered an elusive process accessible only to a select few, chemical recycling could take off in the near future, thanks to a new initiative from Fashion for Good, a global accelerator committed to scaling sustainability.
On Thursday, the company announced the second iteration of its Full Circle Textiles project, which will focus on innovations in polyester recycling. The program brings together brands, innovators, supply chain partners and catalytic lenders dedicated to growing promising technology providers already in service, including CuRe Technology, Garbo, gr3n and PerPETual. Suppliers will produce chemically recycled polyester over the course of 18 months, after which it will be evaluated by the program brand and supply chain partners. The material will eventually be used in the production of fabrics and garments from post-consumer textile waste.
“Textile recycling is a key focus for Fashion for Good,” said Katrin Ley, CEO of Fashion for Good. “With the success of the first Full Circle Textiles project and the proof that a galvanized consortium of stakeholders from across the industry can really move the needle, we can now turn our attention to applying these learnings and steps to scale in one. another critical area: textiles – the recycling of textile polyester. “
As a relatively new innovation, fabric-to-fabric chemical recycling faces significant hurdles at scale and, as a result, has its own skeptics. Its limited availability has led some experts to question the validity of circular initiatives such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign program, which sets minimum requirements for circular denim production and controversially allows a small amount of polyester in its guidelines. .
Due to the lack of access to recycling, critics say that any polyester component disqualifies a product from recycling. Other barriers include a lack of funding, slow brand adoption, and competition with cheaper virgin fibers.
But for others, including high-performance fabric company WL Gore & Associates, which produces the popular waterproof innovation Gore-Tex, plastics are a crucial component of their business.
“Like most brands in the industry, PET is a key fiber to our business and we recognize the need to understand and invest in future recycling capabilities in order to reduce resource consumption,” said Craig Lindemann, technologist at sustainability at WL Gore & Associates’ fabrics division.
For WL Gore & Associates, Lindemann said this project “represents an opportunity to answer some key questions about the future of circularity: how can chemical recycling help us increase the availability of rPET, what is the true footprint of those materials and what are the key constraints, all to make sure we design our products in a responsible way, taking into account the total impact of the life cycle “.
Fashion for Good’s initial Full Circle Textiles project launched in September 2020 and explored cost-effective and scalable solutions for recycling cellulosic chemicals. The program involved technology suppliers Circ, Evrnu, Infinited Fiber Company and Renewcell to produce garments for brand partners PVH Corp. and Kering Group according to their quality specifications.
According to Fashion for Good, the program has completed what it set out to do and is currently working to scale solutions. It will apply the same framework to its latest initiative to ensure similar success.
In November, the organization launched the Sorting for Circularity and Sorting for Circularity India Project to link textile sorters and textile recyclers and further support the development of the infrastructure needed to scale textile recycling. The project aims to build an infrastructure towards greater circularity in the years to come.
Given India’s position as a manufacturing and consumer market for textiles, it is a hub for large streams of pre-consumer and post-consumer household waste. According to Ley, the project is “critical to understanding the size of this sizable market and providing the incentive, tools and means for industry to benefit from the wealth of this untapped resource.”