The fashion and textile industries continue to make strides towards a more circular future with the emergence of new resources and technologies that make a sustainable shift easier than ever before.
In an effort to help designers, brands and suppliers learn how to certify materials, find guidance and funding for achieving Cradle to Cradle certification, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Fashion Positive Initiative has unveiled a set of online resources designed to rapidly increase environmental and social outcomes in the fashion industry. Launched on FashionPositive.org, the resources are also designed to foster industry collaboration with the goal of developing new circular materials.
“For more than a year, brands that have traditionally been competitors have worked together to drive positive change in the fashion industry by re-addressing the way we source, design and make apparel with the tenets of Cradle to Cradle and the circular economy in mind,” said Annie Gullingsrud, Director of Textiles and Apparel Sector for the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.
“The energy, passion and progress this group has demonstrated so far made it clear that it is time to engage all brands, designers, manufacturers and retailers in this powerful community. Thanks to funding and support from Walmart Foundation, we’re making that vision a reality through the tools and resources available on our new website.”
According to Gullingsrud, industry giants such as H&M, Stella McCartney, Kering, Loomstate, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Eileen Fisher and Marks & Spencer played a key role in helping Fashion Positive create the building blocks of circular fashion.
“Working together, we can ultimately change the game for the whole industry by creating a set of ‘building block’ materials that anyone can use to make all fashion safe, circular, fair and affordable. That’s what circular fashion is really about and it’s the future of our industry,” she added.
The new online sources provide valuable tools to help anyone demystify the process of C2C certification, best practices and case studies from other companies that have done it and rewards for successful innovators.
“The companies we work with have established some ambitious sustainability goals and our ability to help them achieve their target depends upon collaborative relationships throughout our industry with other organizations that share our commitment,” said Lewis Perkins, President of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. “In order to affect true change as an industry, we need to expand the creation of circular materials to include everyone within the supply chain. Fashion Positive’s new tools will help fuel that progress by making this conversation possible and, ultimately, facilitating action.”
Meanwhile, the H&M Foundation and The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) have uncovered new solutions to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns — without quality loss — through a hydrothermal process. The partners plan to scale the technology and make it available to the wider fashion industry.
“For too long the fashion industry has not been able to properly recycle its products, since there’s no commercially viable separation, sorting and recycling technology available for the most popular materials such as cotton and polyester blends. This very encouraging finding has the potential to change that. We are very excited to develop this technology and scale it beyond the laboratory, which will benefit the global environment, people and communities,” said Erik Bang, Innovation Lead at H&M Foundation.
H&M and HKRITA’s Closed-Loop Apparel Recycling Ecosystem Program aims to uncover at least one ready technology to recycle clothes made from blend textiles within the four-year project period. One year into the partnership, HKRITA, in collaboration with Ehime University and Shinshu University in Japan, successfully developed a hydrothermal process to fully separate and recycle cotton and polyester blends. The resulting polyester material can be reused directly without any quality loss.
Using only heat, water and less than five percent biodegradable green chemicals, the process has a low environmental impact and the fiber-to-fiber recycling method is cost effective.
“By being able to upcycle used textiles into new high-value textiles, we no longer need to solely rely on virgin materials to dress a growing world population. This is a major breakthrough in the pursuit of a fashion industry operating within the planetary boundaries,” said Edwin Keh, CEO of HKRITA.
Launched in 2016, the partnership is supported by an estimated €5.8 million of funding, with HKRITA conducting the research and work to commercialize the outcomes. The Innovation and Technology Fund of the Hong Kong SAR Government also provides additional funding and support, with total project investment estimated to around €30 million over the four-year collaboration.