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Across the globe, around 48 million tons of textile waste is produced annually. As a result, 73% of this ends up in landfills. With rising awareness from consumers about this issue, fast-fashion giants and high fashion ateliers have been pressured into rethinking their production practices, given that sustainable, renewable and ethically sourced clothing is now considered a necessity by many.
The urgency of this issue has also reached policymakers, with a rise observed in the number of regulations in place to ensure products are more appropriately disposed of. Currently, there is a particular focus around plastics and greater discussion around how to hold companies more accountable for their waste management.
The increased consideration toward environmental responsibility is making the circular economy an integral consideration across supply chains. However, significant challenges remain as “circular” fashion is yet to become mainstream. With a complex supply chain, many brands and designers face difficulties in supplying eco-friendly textiles. To fully achieve a circular economy, the textile industry needs to work cohesively to address the waste problem. Retailers will need to address the concerns of consumers and push for circularity and transparency throughout the supply chain, at every stage of manufacturing.
The Circle Book, created by the TENCEL™ brand, Officina +39 and Meidea during the lockdown, serves as a “blueprint for working together” on achieving low-impact apparel based on transparency. The book details how “Collaboration” and “Circularity” are leading the charge in transforming textiles and fashion. The book provides promise for the future of sustainability in the industry through knowledge sharing and creates solutions for mills and brands. It is also guided by the mantra “Synergy is Energy”, based on the idea of optimizing company collaborations through a progressive sustainable fashion model.
To tackle society’s worsening waste problem, particularly within the fashion industry, the TENCEL™ brand launched the pioneering REFIBRA™ technology to upcycle cotton waste and produce the new compostable TENCEL™ brand lyocell fiber with REFIBRA™ technology.
“What the industry needs is a fundamental transformation – shifting from a linear production model to a model that focuses on ‘reuse’ across supply chains. For the TENCEL™ brand, we stand for the ecologically responsible production of specialty textile fibers. As such, TENCEL™ lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology is made from renewable raw material wood, combined with upcycled cotton waste in a closed-loop production process. These fibers are not only biodegradable and compostable, but also boast long-lasting softness, gentleness on the skin, effective moisture management and strength,” explains Caroline Ledl, Head of Product Management Textiles at Lenzing.
“Our REFIBRA™ technology gives textile scraps and waste a second life, so as to avoid these being sent to landfills or incinerated. By upcycling the scraps and waste into a brand new cellulosic fiber material, Lenzing is leading the charge for the circular economy in the textile industry. Going forward, all waste from one process will be utilized in another, maintaining circularity,” continues Caroline.
Tricia Carey, Director of Global Business Development of Denim at Lenzing, adds, “Extending the lifespan of your products is equally important, using sustainable fibers like TENCEL™ branded fibers with REFIBRA™ technology helps to maintain their quality, despite frequent use or cleaning. This facilitates circularity by reducing the need for frequent replacements, which then reduces the amount of textile waste ending up in landfills.”
“We see now how interconnected we are. Today we are not part of a supply chain, we are a supply network where fibers, chemical producers, spinners, weavers, finishers, designers, brands all come together to share their best. Each can make a difference to lower the environmental footprint of the total garment. This is where we come together, as like-minded people who are part of pioneering companies. The Circle Book is a medley of our collaboration where we collected our ideas reducing waste with inspiring designs,” shares Tricia.
The TENCEL™ brand aims to guide its many global textile and non-woven partners in adopting and achieving an efficient closed-loop process, as well as to achieve high industry standards. The future of the textile industry is circular. Looking ahead, all industry players should be considering how to optimize their production processes and minimize waste to pave the way for tomorrow’s textiles processes.