While the circular economy package adopted by the European Union earlier this month was bashed by critics as being too weak, Europe seems to be hitting the ground running with its efforts to follow through: The following week, the European Commission put its money where its mouth is and opened up €24 billion (~US$26.4B) in funding for businesses looking to transition to a circular economy model. And a variety of smaller-scale efforts from both the public and private sector are continuing the momentum – here, we highlight a few specific to textiles.
RESYNTEX is a €11 million, EU-funded research project aimed at creating a new circular economic model for the textile and chemical industries by turning unwearable textile waste into chemical feedstocks. Launched in June, the project held its first executive board meeting on December 18 in Bled, Slovenia.
Funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, RESYNTEX aims to develop innovative recycling processes and generate new secondary raw materials from textile waste. The project has 20 partners from across 10 different EU member states, including industrial associations, businesses, SMEs and research institutes. Its goals:
- Design a complete value chain from textile waste collection through to the generation of new feedstock for chemicals and textiles
- Improve collection approaches while increasing public awareness of textile waste and social involvement
- Enable traceability of waste using data aggregation. The collected data will evaluate the performance of the new value chains by means of a life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC)
- Develop innovative business models for the chemical and textile industries
- Demonstrate a complete reprocessing line for basic textile components, including liquid and solid waste treatment
Speaking of brands, smaller players in the European market are highlighting upcycling in their latest collections. Launched in 2009, Spain’s Ecoalf has made a name for itself recycling everything from discarded fishing nets, post-consumer plastic bottles, worn-out tires, post-industrial cotton, and even used coffee grinds into outerwear, swimsuits, sneakers and accessories. Now its latest initiative, “Upcycling the Oceans,” is aimed at collecting the plastic trash polluting the Mediterranean Sea and turning it into top-quality thread.
Meanwhile, the latest collection by Budapest-based eco-fashion brand Printa — called Aware — highlights the principles of upcycling by making use of otherwise wasted materials. The garments are crafted by repurposing and embellishing a wide range of throw-away textiles such as old leather jackets, medical gowns, performance apparel and household textiles, as well as unconventional cast-off fabrics including paragliding wings, military wool blankets, and vintage hemp canvas. Printa repaints and retailors the fabrics, turning them into unique pieces of clothing.
“Our production is not big, but still we succeed in reusing around 1.000 kg of textile waste each year,” founder Zita Majoros told Ecouterre. “It’s interesting that most of our clients come to us from the same Western countries where the used clothes came from … so those clothes change the form and go back to their original place.”