According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the US alone generates an estimated 24 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW), which ends up in landfills each year — the equivalent of about 70 pounds of textiles per person. Larger apparel brands such as H&M and The North Face are working to help minimize textile waste through take-back programs, campaigns and collections made from recycled fabrics, while enterprising startups and even the European Union are creating circular processes and economic models.
Add to the list the solutions presented by the five winners of the first-ever Global Change Award — a €1 million challenge for early-stage innovation in the fashion industry. Introduced in August by the non-profit H&M Conscious Foundation, the goal of the Award is to catalyze bold, pioneering ideas to help protect the planet by closing the loop for fashion.
The first five winning ideas range from creating new textiles out of citrus juice by-products and an online marketplace for recycling of textile leftovers to using microbes to recycle waste polyester. Now, the global public is asked to allocate the €1 million grant between the winners in an online vote this week.
“The response of the first Global Change Award is overwhelming. Over 2,700 innovators from 112 countries shared their ideas to help close the loop for fashion. The winning innovations are important contributions in the journey towards a circular fashion industry. Now, we invite the public to use their voice and influence how much funding each idea should get,” said H&M CEO Karl-Johan Persson, also a board member of the H&M Conscious Foundation.
Public votes for their favorite innovations will determine distribution of the €1,000,000 grant. The idea that gets the most votes receives €300,000, second most votes receives €250,000 and third, fourth and fifth most votes receive €150,000 each. Everyone can vote at globalchangeaward.com, February 1-7. The voting result and the people behind the winning innovations will be revealed at a grand award ceremony in Stockholm, February 10, and on globalchangeaward.com on February 11.
“The Global Change Award rewards truly out-of-the-box thinking in utilizing advanced technological approaches to make the fashion industry more sustainable – for example, creating less environmental waste and using less energy – while making fashion products that are even more appealing. In this sense, the five winning innovations all have the potential to be truly game-changing,” says Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO of The New York Academy of Sciences and member of the Global Change Award jury.
The 2015 Global Change Award Winners
The polyester digester — using microbes to recycle waste polyester textile
Polyester is the world’s most common fiber for making textiles and clothes and today it is difficult to recycle waste textile polyester effectively, since it is often mixed with other fibers. This innovation is developing a new type of microbe that eats waste polyester to create useful ingredients, which in turn can be used to produce new polyester without a loss in quality.
Growing textile fiber under water — utilizing algae to make renewable textiles
Algae are organic sea organisms that could represent a new type of raw material to produce renewable textile. Algae grow on energy from the sun and CO2 (making it a renewable resource); it also reduces the need for transportation of textiles, since algae can be picked from coastal regions around the globe.
Making waste-cotton new — conversion of waste-cotton into new textile
A new technology is under development that dissolves textile waste and allows for it to be used as raw material in the production of new textiles, without loss in quality. It uses an environmentally friendly solvent to dissolve the cotton in textile waste in order to spin new cotton-like textile fibers from the waste and create new textiles. This reduces landfill waste and saves natural resources.
An online market for textile leftovers — a marketplace for industrial upcycling of spill in production
A global online marketplace is being developed that gathers and gets textile spill data from manufacturers directly to designers and into the design process of new clothes. The software tool gathers real-time data on waste inventory tied to the production. It then connects manufacturers with designers to get textile leftovers into production and into the design process instead of becoming waste.
100 percent citrus — creating new textile out of citrus juice production by-products
The by-products left over from extracting citrus juice could be used to produce a new type of sustainable textile when spun into yarn.
A vending machine for rental clothes.
Voting ends February 7.