Joining Closed-Loop Recycling in the fashion domain refers to the practice of participating in a recycling system where materials from discarded or worn-out garments are collected, processed, and reintroduced into the production of new clothing items. It involves creating a closed-loop system where the materials used in the fashion industry are continuously recycled and reused, reducing the need for virgin resources and minimizing waste. In more detail, joining closed-loop recycling involves several steps and stakeholders:

Collection

Garment brands or retailers collect used clothing items from users through various channels, such as in-store collection bins, take-back programs, or mail-in options. These items may include damaged garments, unsold inventory, or customer returns. Sorting and Processing: The collected garments are sorted based on their material composition, condition, and potential for recycling. This step ensures that different materials can be appropriately processed and transformed into new products. Any non-recyclable components, such as zippers or buttons, are separated for proper disposal.

Recycling and regeneration

The sorted garments are then processed through various recycling methods, such as mechanical recycling or chemical processes. Mechanical recycling involves shredding the textiles into fibers, which can be spun into new yarns and fabrics. Chemical processes, such as depolymerization or dissolution, break down the textile fibers into their base components for the production of new materials.

Manufacturing

The recycled materials are transformed into new fashion products, including clothing, accessories, or even footwear. These products may incorporate a blend of recycled materials with virgin materials, depending on the desired quality and performance.

User awareness and education

Communicating the importance and benefits of closed-loop recycling to users is crucial. Brands and retailers play a vital role in raising awareness about the recycling programs they offer, educating customers about the significance of recycling, and encouraging them to participate in the closed-loop system.

By joining closed-loop recycling, fashion brands and retailers contribute to the circular economy by extending the lifespan of materials, reducing waste, and minimizing the environmental impact of the fashion industry. This approach promotes resource efficiency, reduces the demand for new raw materials, and helps address the issue of textile waste.

Case studies

Levi’s Waste<Less™

Levi’s introduced the Waste<Less™ collection, which incorporates recycled post-user waste, including plastic bottles, into their denim products. They have partnered with recycling facilities to convert plastic bottles into polyester fibers used in their jeans.

H&M Conscious Collection

H&M, a fast-fashion retailer, launched its Conscious Collection, which focuses on using sustainable materials and implementing closed-loop practices. They have introduced garment collection initiatives where customers can return their used clothing to H&M stores for recycling and receive a discount on their next purchase.

Reformation

Reformation is a sustainable fashion brand that promotes closed-loop recycling through their “RefRecycling” program. They accept used garments from customers and recycle them into new fabrics or donate them to charity. Reformation aims to reduce waste and minimize the environmental footprint of their clothing production.

Adidas x Parley for the Oceans

Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to create a collection of sportswear using recycled ocean plastic. The plastic waste collected from coastal areas and beaches is transformed into yarns and materials used in the production of shoes, apparel, and accessories.

References

Isaac, Roman. “Restitiching the Common Thread: The Potential of Closed Loop Recycling in the Textile and Clothing Industry for Regional and Entrepreneurial Resilience in Northern Portugal.” (2018).

Wang, Shi. “Brief analysis on closed-loop ecosystem of textile and clothing recycling.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science. Vol. 186. No. 4. IOP Publishing, 2018.

Brydges, Taylor. “Closing the loop on take, make, waste: Investigating circular economy practices in the Swedish fashion industry.” Journal of Cleaner Production 293 (2021): 126245.

Harmsen, Paulien, Michiel Scheffer, and Harriette Bos. “Textiles for circular fashion: The logic behind recycling options.” Sustainability 13.17 (2021): 9714.

Wiedemann, Stephen G., et al. “Reducing the Environmental Impacts of Garments through Industrially Scalable Closed-Loop Recycling: Life Cycle Assessment of a Recycled Wool Blend Sweater.” Sustainability 14.3 (2022): 1081.