After years of searching for a solution to the worldwide problem of textile waste, pioneering textile upcycler Worn Again has joined forces with fashion retailer H&M and luxury, sport & lifestyle group Kering to bring to market a revolutionary innovation in clothing production and recycling.
In 2014, the global production of polyester filament and cotton fiber was approximately 65 million tonnes, with demand expected to grow to 90 million tonnes by 2020. To address this, and the growing issue of clothes-to-landfill, Worn Again has developed a first-of-its-kind textile-to-textile chemical recycling technology that is able to separate and extract polyester and cotton from old or end-of-use clothing and textiles. Once separated, the aim is for this unique process to enable the ‘recaptured’ polyester and cellulose from cotton to be spun into new fabric, creating a circular resource model for textiles.
Since Worn Again burst onto the scene in 2005 with footwear made from recycled materials, the company says it has continuously sought out bigger, better solutions to the challenges of textile waste. This led it from footwear into the upcycling of corporate textiles, turning waste fabrics such as end-of-use uniforms and Virgin Atlantic seat covers into products including jackets, wallets and handbags.
With the announcement of its new technology, Worn Again says it has left the field of upcycling behind to focus on the development of its closed-loop textile-recycling solution. The new technology addresses major barriers in textile-to-textile recycling, namely how to separate blended fiber garments, and how to separate dyes and other contaminants from polyester and cellulose.
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Cyndi Rhoades, CEO of Worn Again, said, “Our technology is at the heart of a global vision which will engage all brands, textile recyclers, suppliers and consumers, in a unified ambition to keep clothing already in circulation out of landfill, and as part of a global pool of resources to be used time and time again.”
Announced this week, Worn Again’s technology is entering the next phase of development tests, with H&M and Kering, via its brand PUMA, to monitor the testing. By converting the reclaimed raw materials into yarn, developing fabric and creating garments, these tests will aim to demonstrate that the technology may be commercially viable, and may be able to provide an effective solution for the circular recycling of clothes and textiles.
“We are excited to be part of this project together with Kering and Worn Again,” said Anna Gedda, Head of Sustainability at H&M. “In the long run, this can change the way fashion is made and massively reduce the need for extracting virgin resources from our planet. Furthermore, it brings us closer to our goal of creating fashion in a circular model.”
The joint partnership is catalyzing innovation in the apparel sector by presenting a solution to replace the use of polyester derived from oil, a non-renewable resource, and with the hope of providing a new and low-impact source of raw materials for cellulosic fibers and fabrics.
“Innovation is what we need to solve our global environmental challenges. Our collaboration with H&M and Worn Again is a great example of this, demonstrating how we can design and deliver a solution that will be fundamental in eradicating textile waste while simultaneously offering a new type of sustainable raw material for our Sport & Lifestyle brands,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of international institutional affairs at Kering.
A number of players throughout the fashion industry are innovating to try and eliminate waste and reducing the use of virgin materials: Cambodian fashion brand tonlé, for example, has taken a unique and unwavering approach to eliminating fabric waste in its design and production; while Dutch aWEARness and Aquafil, makers of closed-loop textiles Returnity and Econyl, respectively, are working to scale the infrastructure necessary to ensure a sustainable supply chain.