The Biomimicry Institute has revealed it has been awarded 2.5 million euros to lead a multi-year initiative, Design for Decomposition, that hopes to demonstrate the new possibilities of ‘biocompatible’ fashion waste. It will use the fund to pilot technologies that convert wasted clothes and textiles into biodegradable raw materials.
The initiative links to a prior report by the organisation from 2020, The Nature of Fashion, which concluded decomposition was “the missing link for the sector”. According to the institute’s data, Europeans discard an average of 11 kilos of clothing each year, with some items shipped overseas to places like Accra and around 87 percent either incinerated or in landfills. Rising costs, discontinued landfills and scrutiny over incineration methods prove the need for alternatives as increasingly necessary.
For the initiative, the institute has partnered with Laudes Foundation, a collaborative organisation that supports climate action. It will also be working with Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Metabolic Institute, The OR Foundation, Celery Design and Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), which has previously worked with H&M on similar projects.
Pilots for Design for Decomposition will be hosted in Western Europe, Ghana and Accra, testing decomposition technologies that have yet to scale. The first phases will also be tested in Amsterdam and Berlin, cities with more established waste management infrastructure.
The initiative addresses the end-of-life management of waste, viewing it as a complex problem
Funding from Laudes Foundation puts the initiative in its fashion materials portfolio, further supporting its innovative efforts in challenging the industry.
“Demonstrating that decomposition can put fashion back into natural resource cycles will be a powerful proof point for fashion and its allied industries, and a bold step towards reversing the environmental damage the industry has created thus far,” said Anita Chester, head of materials at Laudes Foundation, in a release. “We are thrilled to support this consortium led by Biomimicry Institute, and eagerly await the results of their game-changing pilots to scale bio-compatible solutions for the fashion industry at large.”
The initiative addresses the end-of-life management of waste, viewing it as a complex problem that continues to impact societies. After hopefully proving that advanced decomposition is viable, with an emphasis on non-toxic solutions, the joint partnership looks to prove the system can change and scale globally.
“Waste makes visible our separation from nature and yet this separation is rarely in focus,” commented The OR Foundation, the organisation leading the work in Accra and Ghana. Its focus is on the disconnect consumers have with purchases and the impact on the planet. “We are excited to be part of this initiative, because the goal is not to maintain a false sense of control, attempting to perpetually juggle products above nature, but rather the goal is to work with nature, to find our place within the ecosystem.”
The consortium has stated it is continuing its search for more partners, technologies, funders and pilot sites who want to look for solutions to post-consumer fashion waste.