Cases: circular design for textiles

Update

Are you interested to learn about what is already happening in the field of circular textiles? Take a look at this selection of Circular Design best practices for the textiles industry. Want to know more? Let us know!

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EMMA Safety Footwear

Challenge

Ever since its foundation in 1931, EMMA Safety Footwear has been creating positive social impact by opting for diversity and inclusivity in its organization. Currently, more than 100 people work at EMMA Safety Footwear with a distance to the labor market. EMMA Safety Footwear makes high-quality work shoes for every sector. Work shoes are used intensively and are replaced once a year for the toughest professions. This results in a large residual flow of shoes. That’s why EMMA developed the Amazon shoe; the first circular and fully recyclable work shoe.

Circular design strategy

The circular work shoe is designed for a long service life. For example, the leather heel has been replaced by the more durable TPU. For the rest of the exterior, EMMA chose oil nubic. This leather is fatter, which means that it remains flexible for longer and wears less quickly, even without maintenance. There are slots in the TPU heel where the stitching falls. This also means that they wear out less quickly. In addition, the top lace hook has been replaced by an eye, as it regularly broke.

In recent years, EMMA has mapped out all the materials in their products in detail. In all their shoes they replace the harmful and non-recyclable materials with sustainable and recyclable alternatives. Concessions have been made in the construction of the shoe on recyclability to guarantee safety and comfort. In the choice of material, the new applications in which the material is reused are already taken into account. The TPU can be used, for example, in insulating material. And they make press products from the leather. EMMA manually disassembles used shoes with a multi-tool and then separates them into mono streams.

Circular business model

Partner company COFA organizes the collection of the shoes. Normally dealers pay 0.40 €/kg for the disposal of work shoes. EMMA collects for free to get the return flow going. Recycling and collection is not yet profitable, but the project is still in the start-up phase. By finding high-quality new applications for their materials, EMMA hopes to eventually earn more from their residual flows. EMMA does not pass on the extra costs to its customers. They see it as an investment in the future and believe that customers no longer have to pay for sustainable products

Result & follow-up

For upscaling, the options for mechanical disassembly are being explored, for example through collaboration with partners. In addition, EMMA wants to take steps to increase support and awareness among dealers and users and to stimulate the return of shoes, for example by informing them about the environmental benefits by means of a materials passport.

HAVEP photography by viktorbentley | 2016 © www.viktorbentley.com

HAVEP

Challenge

HAVEP produces (protective) workwear for various sectors, such as the construction, agricultural sector and (chemical) industry. The clothing industry is (unfortunately) one of the most polluting in the world. The materials that are made to make work clothes water-repellent or protective are often harmful to the environment. There are high requirements for work clothing with regard to safety. This clothing must be very strong. It is therefore less easy to use recycled fibres, as this is usually at the expense of the fiber’s strength.

The recycling process is still a real technological challenge. There is currently no technology for good and large-scale recycling. In addition, it is a logistical challenge to recycle the diversity of products, clothing and to make new raw materials from old raw materials. And it is a financial challenge: sustainable raw materials are currently often more expensive than non-renewable raw materials. So a combination of technological, logistical and financial challenges.

Circular design strategy

HAVEP is working on sustainability on various fronts. They use Ellen MacArthur’s 4 principles for circularity:

  1. Quality and longevity of clothing: Let the clothing last as long as possible. This starts with making good quality and solid clothing. In addition, HAVEP offers repair services, etc.
  2. Recycling: Where possible, recycle as much as possible. To put this into practice, HAVEP started a collaboration with a textile recycling company at the beginning of this year to process the clothing that we take back as well as possible.
  3. Detox: As we work with more circular models, we also think about the materials that are used in the clothing and are therefore included in the cycle. HAVEP has developed a line that is free from certain harmful dyes.
  4. Making the fibers more sustainable: As long as not everything can be made from recycled raw materials, we try to use as many sustainable fibers as possible. An example of this is the ambulance clothing that HAVEP has been producing since 2019. This largely contains organic cotton and Tencel® (a sustainable fibre), which requires much less water. Or our Multi Shield collection, a multi-standard line that also uses lyocell as a sustainable fiber.

Circular business model

The biggest chance is the positive impact you make as a sector, to eventually switch to a sustainable model that can be implemented for many days without harmful effects. Finally, it is also an opportunity to be a source of inspiration for other textile companies. It is very inspiring to work together with other partners, as a company you also learn from that. It is a dynamic process to look at the industry in a different way and to move along with the developments, which certainly also offers opportunities.

Result & follow-up

HAVEP’s ambition is to be 90% circular by 2025. That is a dot on the horizon and gives us a focus point to implement it in all areas: lifespan, recycling, detoxing and sustainability. This is a nice ambition.

We are now looking at how we can make this more concrete within the company and how we can achieve KPIs and progress with the various departments. By applying sustainable fibers in the clothing and concluding other types of contracts with companies. By collecting and recycling clothes. These are all components that contribute to circular entrepreneurship.

Loop.a life

Loop.a life circular sweaters

Challenge

Every year, 235,000 tons of clothing are discarded in the Netherlands. Almost 70% of this ends up in the incinerator. To reduce this mountain of clothing waste, Brightloops started the circular clothing brand Loop.a life. They turn discarded clothing into knitted fashion and interior, such as sweaters, cardigans and scarves.

Circular design strategy

Loop.a life distinguishes itself by only using material from the local textile waste stream from consumers. And by producing locally and sustainably. Partners such as the Salvation Army and Wieland textiles collect the textiles. They then carefully sort this textile into 25 different colours. These colors come together in blends to create a specific color. As a result, it is not necessary to dye the textile. And this avoids a lot of water and chemicals in production. After sorting, the textile is fiberized and spun into new yarn with which new garments are knitted.

Sustainability is also central to the design of the Loop.a life clothing line. They make slow fashion: timeless items that last a long time. The garments are much less likely to break due to, for example, limited use of buttons and zippers. In addition, they mainly use mono colors instead of patterns and color combinations.

Circular business model

Loop.a life is part of Brightloops. They also produce clothing for private labels, such as Didi Fashion. In addition, Brightloops has its own brand. This allows them to learn and innovate. They then apply this knowledge in collaboration with other brands. In this way, they can achieve greater impact on a larger scale. Because the entire production takes place in Europe, Loop.a life clothing falls into a somewhat higher price segment. This is in contrast to so-called fast fashion products. They are priced so low that consumer behavior only further stimulates. Brightloops’ mission is to break this pattern. The private label price level depends on the segmentation of the customer. If desired, they offer tailor-made yarn development and circular product development.

Result & follow-up

Currently, people who are at a distance from the labor market sort the textiles by hand. Loop.a life now has a collaboration with Wieland Textiles, the Salvation Army and the Municipality of Zaanstad. Together they want to further automate the sorting, cleaning and fiberization process. This increases the quality of raw materials and products and reduces costs. In addition, Brightloops will focus in the coming period on further scaling up production and developing new yarns.

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