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‘Textile recyclers: rethink your business’

With the EU preparing to publish a dedicated roadmap for achieving circularity in textiles, the recycling landscape is changing and further innovation will take place over the next few years, experts told the latest BIR Convention.

Alan Wheeler of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association is advising companies that ‘in order to stay in business, you need to keep moving forward’. BIR Textiles Division president Martin Böschen of Switzerland-based Texaid Textilverwertungs AG acknowledged: ‘Our industry may have to change its business model.’

Emile Bruls, advisor for the Dutch ministry responsible for the environment and circular economy, insisted collectors and sorters had to prepare themselves for change. ‘You should rethink the business you are in. You have to be collaborative and see if there is a specific role you can play within this completely new circular textiles business.’

Building awareness

One of the changes identified by the expert panel is the emergence of peer-to-peer platforms for selling or exchanging garments. David Watson, senior consultant at the PlanMiljø sustainability and environmental consultancy in Denmark, said such initiatives helped to build public awareness of the value of textiles and encouraged consumers to buy more expensive, higher-quality products because they know that they can recoup some of the cost by reselling on a platform.

Watson expressed the hope that the EU strategy to be published later this year would focus on ‘how to keep textiles going for as long as possible in their current form’. He suggested that economic instruments such as taxes could encourage the production of garments that were durable, repairable and, ultimately, ‘easily recycled in a viable way’.

Innovation needed

Emile Bruls agreed it was crucial to keep the value of textiles as high as possible for as long as possible. He hopes the EU strategy will focus on innovation in recycling, new business models and reuse, as well as tackling the issue of ‘fast fashion’. Eco-design – including less use of hazardous substances – was also very important, he insisted.

Jonas Eder-Hansen of the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) leadership forum for industry collaboration on sustainability in fashion underlined the importance of educating designers and providing them with the tools to create circular design strategies. The GFA’s public affairs director also called on recyclers and brands to engage in partnerships.

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