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Fashion for Good launches Sorting for Circularity USA project

By Simone Preuss


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Used textiles. Image: Ron Lach via Fashion for Good

The global sustainability initiative Fashion for Good has launched its new Sorting for Circularity USA project today, which will focus on the North-American textile-to-textile recycling market. External brand partners are Adidas, Inditex, Levi Strauss & Co. and Target, and external partners are Eastman, H&M and Nordstrom.

The 18-month project aims to provide “the most representative snapshot of textile waste composition generated in the United States” according to a press release and will build on the learnings from the Sorting for Circularity Europe and India projects. It also wants to understand and evaluate the business case for textile-to-textile recycling and ensure that used textiles “move to their best and highest end use”.

Project includes consumer survey and textile composition analysis

Accordingly, part of the project will be an extensive consumer survey to map the journey a garment takes from closet to end of use. In addition, there will be a comprehensive analysis of these post-consumer textiles using Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) technology to understand their composition.

“As we band together around this critical issue, the data will enable us to drive the transition of textile waste as a feedstock for our advanced recycling technologies where we break down waste material to its basic building blocks and create new materials without compromise,” explains Claudia de Witte, sustainability leader at Eastman.

Michigan-based environmental consultancy Resource Recycling Systems will be the project’s co-lead and will drive the dissemination and analysis of the consumer survey together with the NYS Center for Sustainable Materials Management.

It will also execute the textile composition analysis across the USA with support from the advisory organisations Circle Economy based in Amsterdam and SMART (Secondary Materials And Recycled Textiles Association). The latter is one of the largest used fibre trade associations and will liaise with its used clothing and fibre industry members to participate in the project. Circle Economy co-led the European project and will guide the implementation of the waste analysis methodology.

“We are excited to be taking the Sorting for Circularity project into new territory and entering the North-American market. After successful initiatives across such large regions as Europe and India, the US presents a great opportunity for innovation and circularity considering the volume of the consumer market and post-consumer textiles landscape,” comments Fashion for Good’s managing director Katrin Ley.

Textile waste represents fastest growing segment of US waste stream

Textile waste now represents the fastest growing segment of the USA’s waste stream and the amount of discarded textiles is increasing annually. According to World Bank data, although some of this waste is reused, 85 percent of it ends up in landfills.

Though the demand for recycled fibres has been growing according to an overview by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, access to the waste supply is limited. “Key elements to supporting the growth of textile-to-textile recycling include understanding material composition, volume and location of used textiles, as well as expanding access to textile recycling,” states Fashion for Good.

“This project will lay the foundation to make informed investment and infrastructure decisions, demonstrating the business case for alternative revenue streams from a vast untapped resource,” adds Ley.

Accordingly, the project’s results will inform decisions to unlock the necessary investments and actions to scale collection, sorting and recycling innovations.

“We are advancing design and material innovations to produce more clothes that are used more, made to be made again using safe, recycled and renewable inputs that contribute to a more circular product cycle, where recycling infrastructure is critical in closing the loop. Through our partnership with Fashion for Good and the series of Sorting for Circularity projects, we're hopeful we'll uncover an opportunity to advance the circular economy to unlock scalable solutions that reduce the impact of the current take, make, waste model,” sums up Jeffrey Hogue, chief sustainability officer at Levi Strauss & Co.

Fashion For Good