GFA says circularity is in reach but needs investment and collaboration
A new research report launched on Monday shows that “fashion can become 80% circular through pre-competitive collaboration to scale textile recycling”.
It comes from Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), the non-profit group pushing for industry collaboration on sustainability in fashion. It claims that the circularity boost could also create jobs and value for investors. And it added that scaling textile recycling could build a market worth between $10 billion and $20 billion.
In the aftermath of COP26, GFA has published Scaling Circularity, with the report revealing the opportunities and investment required to scale circular fashion systems.
It was written with GFA's Strategic Knowledge Partner, McKinsey & Company, and concludes that the fashion industry could become 80% circular by 2030 but needs increased investment in existing recycling technologies and infrastructures to do so.
The findings are based on independent analysis and learnings from the Bangladesh-based Circular Fashion Partnership, which is a cross-sectoral project to scale post-industrial recycling and capture textile value domestically in the huge garment-producing country. Since its launch in October 2020, the partnership used the Reverse Resources SaaS platform to map and trace over 1000 tonnes of textile waste in Bangladesh. It’s expected to reach over 200 tonnes a month by the end of 2021
It claims that major recycling technologies deliver better environmental outcomes across GHG emissions, water depletion and land use than the alternatives do. And it also says all technologies “have the potential to be more cost effective than using corresponding virgin materials if they are scaled”.
Current tech could potentially deliver 75% textile-to-textile recycling into the fashion system, with a further 5% recycled feedstock from other industries, we’re told. But that would require between $5 billion and $7 billion of capital investment (at least) in recycling technologies by 2026. And there would also need to be more investment in collection and sorting infrastructure.
Such large amounts could be a turn-off for many in the industry but GFA said the research indicates “the business case for investing in recycling infrastructure is attractive” if there is greater transparency of the demand for recycled materials and the consistent supply of traceable high-quality feedstock.
It said the industry needs to convene influential players throughout the fashion value cycle, develop traceability of waste streams and align on mutual incentives.
Its CEO, Federica Marchionni, said: “This research proves that the necessary recycling technologies exist, deliver huge improvements in environmental impact and that the economics work at scale. The challenge is providing conditions for scaling. With sufficient investment, supportive policies, and by enabling pre-competitive collaborations, I am optimistic that we can create a profitable circular system and accelerate fashion's journey to net zero.”
And Karl-Hendrik Magnus, Senior Partner and the Leader of the Apparel, Fashion & Luxury Group, McKinsey & Company, added: “This report emphasises the often-overlooked opportunity for textile recycling in post-industrial waste. It highlights the power of industry stakeholders working together to accelerate change.”
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