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Used Textiles

“Business as usual” still a distant prospect for many textiles recyclers

These risks were particularly acute for the reuse sector, he added.

While recent months had brought some improvement in demand and payments for sorted goods, prices were still “15-25% lower than before COVID-19”, according to Mr Böschen. Demand for recycled goods, meanwhile, had not picked up at all. Many sorting companies in Europe were working “at reduced capacities” while stocks of originals held in warehouses were “one and a half to two times higher than normal at this time of year”.

He concluded: “It will take at least 18 to 24 months to return to ‘Business as Usual’ in our industry.” The longer the pandemic remained an issue, the harder it would be, he said.

Lisa Jepsen of US-based Garson & Shaw reported that most companies in the USA and Central America had seen their sales nosedive in the early stages of the pandemic but these had now returned to approaching normal levels. Stocks had been quick to fall once thrift stores reopened, she added.

According to Peter Saas of Pisatex Gulf in the United Arab Emirates, sales had now recovered to around 80-85% of their usual levels. The African market was back to normal although prices were showing a slight decline, he also noted.

Reporting on the Bulgarian market, Yavor Pandov from the country’s Association of Recyclers and Traders of Second Hand Clothes (ARTSHC) confirmed that volumes had returned to around 90% of pre-COVID levels. Africa and Pakistan had resumed their regular purchasing levels “in terms of quantities, not in terms of price”.

Mr Pandov went on to confirm that a tax on imported second-hand clothing was still being discussed within his country’s parliament and now seemed likely to be imposed despite on-going opposition from the ARTSHC. Back in 2018, the association had received support from BIR in fighting the proposal, with the world association arguing that a tax would harm domestic consumers and would prevent the Bulgarian government from meeting the recycling targets for textiles set down in the EU’s revised Waste Framework Directive. BIR Textiles Division’s General Delegate Alan Wheeler of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association told the webinar that a tax on used clothing “defeats the whole point of EPR (extended producer responsibility)”.

In the first of two guest presentations, Emmanuel Katrakis, Secretary General of the European Recycling Industries’ Confederation (EuRIC), focused on the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted by the European Commission in March 2020 which enshrines the development of a new EU textiles strategy by 2021 to strengthen competitiveness and innovation in the sector as well as to boost the market for reuse. EuRIC believes the strategy should champion: EPR to support a proper infrastructure and to modulate fees based on textiles’ reusability, recyclability and recycled content; adapted customs codes to ease transboundary movements of textiles; and development/funding of “fit-for-purpose” technologies. Mr Katrakis also stressed the importance of targets and incentives covering, for example, reuse and incorporation of recycled fibres in new products.

Fellow guest speaker Hilde van Duijn, Senior Project Manager at Netherlands-based Circle Economy, outlined some of the latest technologies available for textiles as well as the challenges faced, including: the lack of market “pull” for non-wearable textiles; the “negative perception” of recycled content; and the ever-changing composition of post-consumer textiles. It was “very important”, she underlined, that representatives of the end-of-life value chain – and not just brands and producers – were at the table when these issues were discussed.

During a subsequent panel discussion moderated by Mr Wheeler, Mr Böschen insisted: “We need solutions for what to do with those textiles that have reached the end of their technical life.” Building an infrastructure in the EU to cope with separate collections by the year 2025 would require investment, he also maintained.

Hyperspectral imaging reducing textile waste

Hyperspectral imaging from the Finnish company Specim offers the technical requirements for successfully achieving this ambitious goal.

The textile industry causes a significant part of the pollution from which mankind is increasingly suffering worldwide. The reasons for this are diverse. On the one hand, the production of fabrics and clothing requires a high level of resources, especially e.g. with cotton an immense water consumption. On the other hand, a large part of used and new textiles – current estimates are around 16 million tons per year – ends up in landfills, although at least a partial reuse of the materials would be possible. In addition, microplastics as the residues from synthetic textile fibers are increasingly reaching soil and water, where they endanger the existence of entire animal species and mankind through the food chains. The trend towards replacing clothing with new ones more and more frequently is partly responsible for this negative development. Companies in the fashion industry are presenting more and more collections each year. Where one new summer and winter collection used to be on the market in the past, up to 25 new launches per year are no longer uncommon.

Different textiles have individual spectral characteristics that can be used to classify the fabrics. Image source: Specim
Different textiles have individual spectral characteristics that can be used to classify the fabrics.
Image source: Specim

In order to reduce the serious consequences of these developments for the environment, it is necessary to significantly increase the rate of textile recycling. This cannot be achieved with the current manual methods, since employees cannot sort different substances with the required speed and endurance and, in addition, special knowledge of the different types of textile is required: reliable identification and separation of different types of fibers and substances with blended fabrics based solely on appearance is almost impossible by hand. To make things worse, such workplaces are generally very unsanitary and even potentially dangerous due to possible toxins in the textiles to be sorted. In the long term, manual sorting of textiles is therefore extremely expensive.

New EU guidelines against textile waste

The European Union adopted new guidelines for combating textile waste in 2018 and set a deadline for its member states: by 2025, they should completely recycle all textiles. According to the current state of the art, this ambitious goal can only be achieved with a few methods. Hyperspectral imaging is one of these technologies, Esko Herrala knows. The co-founder and senior application specialist of the Finnish company Specim has been dealing with the question of how to separate and recycle different materials economically and safely for many years. He has contributed to this topic in a report by the “Committee for the Future” written for the Finnish parliament. The aim of this report was to find out how Finland can benefit from the vision industry and in which fields of application this technology can be used.

“I was responsible for the circular economy part of that report where I demonstrated various possible uses of photonics systems in the area of waste separation,” says Herrala. During a presentation of the results at the Helsinki Parliament in 2019, the Finnish government then defined the sorting of textiles as a prioritized area of application and has set the goal of collecting and recycling all of the country’s textile waste by 2023. “Finland is already one of the world’s leading countries in the field of plastics and construction waste sorting and would also like to use the great economic potential of textile recycling with innovative solutions,” the Specim co-founder explains.

Hyperspectral NIR systems as a solution
Picture of the samples
Picture of the samples
Prediction data
Prediction data

From the end of 2019, Specim dealt intensively with the task and looked for suitable partners. For the manufacturer of NIR hyperspectral cameras, it was obvious that this technology was to be considered as a possible solution for textile sorting. “First of all, you have to know that different textiles have individual spectral characteristics that can be used to classify the fabrics. Fabrics either consist of natural fibers such as Cotton, of animal fibers such as Sheep’s wool or of synthetic fibers such as polyester. Mixed fabrics are also often made from different types of fibers,” explains Herrala. “The different materials differ in their chemical and molecular structures. As a result, these substances react differently to electromagnetic waves of different wavelengths in the way they absorb, reflect or let them pass through.”

These characteristics can be used to perform a spectral analysis of textiles based on the reflected light using hyperspectral imaging systems. Special cameras with wavelengths in the near infrared range (NIR) in combination with a spectrograph enable a clear identification of the chemical composition of the inspected material and thus form the basis for an automated sorting of textiles.

“Hyperspectral NIR image processing systems in combination with suitable classification algorithms allow the differentiation of substances with different fabrics and colors as well as the identification of natural, animal and synthetic fibers,” explains Herrala. “This technology can even deliver quantitative information about the proportions of synthetic and natural fibers in blended fabrics.”

Specific requirements

The development of a reliable solution for sorting textiles presented SPECIM with specific requirements, recalls Herrala: “When sorting plastics, there is the phenomenon that black materials largely absorb the light, making it much more difficult to distinguish between different types of black plastics. This problem also occurs with black fabrics. We were able to solve it by using other cameras with wavelengths in the mid-infrared range (MWIR, Mid Wave Infrared), but due to the higher cost for such cameras, the required cost-effectiveness has to be checked for the individual use case.”

Another difficulty is the differentiation of different substances when they are damp or wet. “We used both dry and wet material to train the system and then tested the classification algorithm with dry and damp textiles. This path led to usable results, but we still prefer to sort only relatively dry material.”

According to Herrala, the sorting of so-called multilayer textiles is still unsolved – the technology is currently reaching its limits at that point.

The solution: Specim FX17
With the InGaAs-based spectral camera FX17, working in the wavelength range from 900 to 1700 nm, SPECIM offers the perfect solution for a suitable sensor for classifying textiles. Image source: Specim
With the InGaAs-based spectral camera FX17, working in the wavelength range from 900 to 1700 nm, SPECIM offers the perfect solution for a suitable sensor for classifying textiles.
Image source: Specim

With the InGaAs-based spectral camera FX17, SPECIM offers the perfect solution for a suitable sensor for classifying textiles. This camera works in the wavelength range from 900 to 1700 nm and, apart from a few synthetic black textiles such as black polyester or black nylon, completely covers the different spectral signatures of conventional fabrics.

Due to a special technical feature, the FX17 camera is also very flexible with regard to the recording speed: It offers users the option of selecting and evaluating from 224 wavelength bands and only use those that are particularly meaningful for the application at hand due to the material properties of the test object. The number of wavelengths used has a direct influence on the speed of the solution: the fewer wavelengths used, the faster the evaluation. This property is called Multi Region of Interest (MROI) and means with the FX17 that a recording speed of 670 lines per second can be achieved when using all 224 wavelength bands, however, with a reduction of wavelength bands, even thousands of lines per second are possible.

Another feature of the FX17 increases the reliability in the detection of different types of fabric by adjusting the camera configuration in terms of its spatial binning and to work with different resolutions, thus enabling statistical averaging of the measurement results in the camera, as Herrala explains: “Especially with textile detection, problems often occur with reflections or shadows, which can be caused by buttons, rivets or dirt when textiles are transported and differentiated on conveyor belts. If you do not use the results of individual measurement values for classification, but instead use the statistical average over the area examined, you will much more likely get the correct results. The FX17 offers this possibility.”

Thanks to other special features of the FX17 cameras, such as the excellent signal-to-noise ratio of 1000: 1 and high throughput, which leads to less light required to illuminate the test area, or higher sorting speeds, this camera has proven to be an excellent sensor for use in textile sorting.

Automated textile recycling

An automated solution to the task requires more than just a suitable sensor, but also a company that wants to bring the technology to market maturity. With the business development company Prizztech Ltd., Specim found such a partner. Prizztech is a non-profit organization, that coordinates Robocoast Digital Innovation HUB, the center of excellence for example in robotics, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, IoT and circular economy in western Finland.

Essi Vanha-Viitakoski: “Specim´s professionalism and their FX17 hyperspectral camera completely convinced us, so we decided to join forces to push the development of automated systems for textile recycling." Image source: Prizztech
Essi Vanha-Viitakoski: “Specim´s professionalism and their FX17 hyperspectral camera completely convinced us, so we decided to join forces to push the development of automated systems for textile recycling.”
Image source: Prizztech

“One of our goals is to improve the competitiveness in our region, but on the other hand to spread the resulting innovative ideas and solutions internationally,” explains Essi Vanha-Viitakoski. She works as an advisor for Prizztech and first met Esko Herrala in the Committee for the Future. “The hyperspectral camera developed by SPECIM immediately convinced me of its many different uses. On the basis of our first conversation, we then carried out joint application tests for tasks in the food industry. After that, I was completely convinced of SPECIM´s professionalism and we decided to join forces to push the development of automated systems for textile recycling.”

Before this collaboration, neither Prizztech nor the Robocoast Digital Innovation Hub had dealt with the sorting of textile waste. They therefore commissioned a study on this subject, which was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The results mentioned therein confirmed the enormous potential, said Vanha-Viitakoskis: “A key statement of the study was that there are no ready-to-use solutions for sorting textiles worldwide, but the urgency to solve this task economically with the help of reliable automation will continue to increase in the future.”

Esko Herrala: “A large part of all textiles can be sorted automatically with the help of hyperspectral imaging and a suitable classification algorithm." Image source: Specim
Esko Herrala: “A large part of all textiles can be sorted automatically with the help of hyperspectral imaging and a suitable classification algorithm.”
Image source: Specim

These results were a further motivation for the project partners to drive the development of suitable technologies. With success, reports Esko Herrala: “The work has not yet been completed, but we do already know most of the possible sorting problems and what leads to success, both technically and economically. A large part of all textiles can be sorted automatically with the help of hyperspectral imaging and a suitable classification algorithm.”

“The Specim hyperspectral cameras in combination with the existing software and application know-how of everyone involved create new opportunities in the field of textile sorting and in general for the recycling industry to reduce environmental pollution”, confirms Essi Vanha-Viitakoski. “We are very proud that a technical solution to the global problem of textile recycling has been found in Finland.”

First large-scale end-of-life textile refinement plant in Finland

Rester Oy, which is developing the plant in Paimio, recycles companies’ end-of-life textiles, and Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy (LSJH), which will hire a production area at the same facility, processes households’ end-of-life textiles. The plant will process 12,000 tonnes of end-of-life textiles every year, which represents about 10% of Finland’s textile waste.

About 100 million kilograms of textile waste are generated annually in Finland alone. Reusing this material could reduce the textile industry’s carbon footprint and significantly reduce the use of natural resources.

Rester Oy and LSJH will drive the textile sector towards a circular economy and begin processing textile waste as an industrial raw material. The Nordic countries’ first industrial end-of-textile refinement plant will open in Paimio in 2021. The 3,000-square-metre plant is being developed by Rester Oy, which recycles companies’ end-of-life textiles and industrial waste materials. LSJH, which processes households’ end-of-life textiles on its production line, will hire part of the plant.

The future plant will be able to process 12,000 tonnes of end-of-life textiles annually, which represents about 10% of Finland’s textile waste. Both production lines produce recycled fibre, which can be used for various industrial applications, including yarn and fabric, insulating materials for construction and shipping industries, acoustic panels, composites, non-woven and filter materials, and other technical textiles, such as geo-textiles.
 

Textiles: Stocks could take “18 to 24 months” to return to normal levels

“We are currently in a situation that, in some markets and areas, the prices of unsorted, post-consumer textiles are lower than the costs for collection,” he told the Division’s eForum on June 23. This situation has put collection, sorting and recycling “at risk” and, if it were to continue, “it could be the end of many current collection systems”.

The pandemic-related closure of many retail outlets around the world had contributed to a huge increase in inventories of both raw materials and sorted goods, and thus to “a substantial decrease in prices”. Stocks at collection and processing companies were estimated to be “three to four times higher than usual for this time of year”. Even in the more positive scenarios, it would take “18 to 24 months until the current stocks have been reduced to normal levels and we can speak of business as usual”, Mr Böschen warned.

“Depending on the market,” he said, “current retail revenues are said to be 40-60% (of the norm) in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as well as in the open South American countries, and up to around 80% in North-West Europe and in the USA.”

Given the prospect of EU-wide mandatory separate collections of textiles and footwear by the year 2025, the remainder of the meeting focused on the role of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in maximizing textiles reuse and recycling. Whatever new systems were put in place, it was important that these did not harm existing reuse mechanisms, Mr Böschen told a question-and-answer session moderated by the Textiles Division’s General Delegate Alan Wheeler of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association. “We need to ensure that the waste hierarchy will be followed in future, putting reuse always above recycling,” insisted Mr Böschen.

Maud Hardy, Circular Economy Director at France-based Eco TLC, explained that 70% of her EPR organization’s budget was devoted to the support of sorting, 20% to communications and 10% to studies/innovation. A large proportion of the 52 innovation projects supported since 2010 had focused on open-loop solutions because these represented potentially high-volume outlets.

The guest speaker outlined the following priorities for her organization: investing to create a successful industrialization of recycling solutions; improvement of product durability throughout its life-cycle; increasing the collection of used textiles and footwear both in terms of quantity and quality; and optimizing sorting efficiency for reuse and recycling, for example, through the adoption of new technologies. EPR made sense only “if we are able to connect the integrators of recycled materials with the manufacturers of these materials”, she said.

Mehdi Zerroug, Director of Eco Textile in France and former President of the BIR Textiles Division, agreed with Ms Hardy that EPR schemes should be tailored to the circumstances of each individual country. He had earlier pointed out that reuse provided an established commercial outlet for 60% of collection volumes whereas little if any revenue was derived from the remaining 40% comprised of material for recycling. With mandatory separate collection likely to yield an overall decrease in quality and value, new recycling solutions would be required – particularly for the non-reusable component. The fashion and recycling industries would need to work together, he added, “for an improved circularity of the textiles”.

Mauro Scalia, Director of Sustainable Businesses at the Belgium-based European apparel and textile confederation EURATEX, acknowledged the environmental challenges facing the “resource-intensive” textiles industry and stated: “We need to find new ways for making, using and disposing of products. New partnerships need to be built between the textiles industry and the collection/recycling part of the value chain.”

Mr Scalia added that EPR schemes should be designed to support circularity, should value different textiles that may need different recycling routes and should solve “real problems”. At the same time, no EPR scheme should cause “detrimental unintended consequences”, he insisted. 

Textiles: Stocks could take “18 to 24 months” to return to normal levels

“We are currently in a situation that, in some markets and areas, the prices of unsorted, post-consumer textiles are lower than the costs for collection,” he told the Division’s eForum on June 23. This situation has put collection, sorting and recycling “at risk” and, if it were to continue, “it could be the end of many current collection systems”.

The pandemic-related closure of many retail outlets around the world had contributed to a huge increase in inventories of both raw materials and sorted goods, and thus to “a substantial decrease in prices”. Stocks at collection and processing companies were estimated to be “three to four times higher than usual for this time of year”. Even in the more positive scenarios, it would take “18 to 24 months until the current stocks have been reduced to normal levels and we can speak of business as usual”, Mr Böschen warned.

“Depending on the market,” he said, “current retail revenues are said to be 40-60% (of the norm) in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as well as in the open South American countries, and up to around 80% in North-West Europe and in the USA.”

Given the prospect of EU-wide mandatory separate collections of textiles and footwear by the year 2025, the remainder of the meeting focused on the role of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in maximizing textiles reuse and recycling. Whatever new systems were put in place, it was important that these did not harm existing reuse mechanisms, Mr Böschen told a question-and-answer session moderated by the Textiles Division’s General Delegate Alan Wheeler of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association. “We need to ensure that the waste hierarchy will be followed in future, putting reuse always above recycling,” insisted Mr Böschen.

Maud Hardy, Circular Economy Director at France-based Eco TLC, explained that 70% of her EPR organization’s budget was devoted to the support of sorting, 20% to communications and 10% to studies/innovation. A large proportion of the 52 innovation projects supported since 2010 had focused on open-loop solutions because these represented potentially high-volume outlets.

The guest speaker outlined the following priorities for her organization: investing to create a successful industrialization of recycling solutions; improvement of product durability throughout its life-cycle; increasing the collection of used textiles and footwear both in terms of quantity and quality; and optimizing sorting efficiency for reuse and recycling, for example, through the adoption of new technologies. EPR made sense only “if we are able to connect the integrators of recycled materials with the manufacturers of these materials”, she said.

Mehdi Zerroug, Director of Eco Textile in France and former President of the BIR Textiles Division, agreed with Ms Hardy that EPR schemes should be tailored to the circumstances of each individual country. He had earlier pointed out that reuse provided an established commercial outlet for 60% of collection volumes whereas little if any revenue was derived from the remaining 40% comprised of material for recycling. With mandatory separate collection likely to yield an overall decrease in quality and value, new recycling solutions would be required – particularly for the non-reusable component. The fashion and recycling industries would need to work together, he added, “for an improved circularity of the textiles”.

Mauro Scalia, Director of Sustainable Businesses at the Belgium-based European apparel and textile confederation EURATEX, acknowledged the environmental challenges facing the “resource-intensive” textiles industry and stated: “We need to find new ways for making, using and disposing of products. New partnerships need to be built between the textiles industry and the collection/recycling part of the value chain.”

Mr Scalia added that EPR schemes should be designed to support circularity, should value different textiles that may need different recycling routes and should solve “real problems”. At the same time, no EPR scheme should cause “detrimental unintended consequences”, he insisted. 

Textiles: Stocks could take “18 to 24 months” to return to normal levels

“We are currently in a situation that, in some markets and areas, the prices of unsorted, post-consumer textiles are lower than the costs for collection,” he told the Division’s eForum on June 23. This situation has put collection, sorting and recycling “at risk” and, if it were to continue, “it could be the end of many current collection systems”.

The pandemic-related closure of many retail outlets around the world had contributed to a huge increase in inventories of both raw materials and sorted goods, and thus to “a substantial decrease in prices”. Stocks at collection and processing companies were estimated to be “three to four times higher than usual for this time of year”. Even in the more positive scenarios, it would take “18 to 24 months until the current stocks have been reduced to normal levels and we can speak of business as usual”, Mr Böschen warned.

“Depending on the market,” he said, “current retail revenues are said to be 40-60% (of the norm) in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as well as in the open South American countries, and up to around 80% in North-West Europe and in the USA.”

Given the prospect of EU-wide mandatory separate collections of textiles and footwear by the year 2025, the remainder of the meeting focused on the role of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in maximizing textiles reuse and recycling. Whatever new systems were put in place, it was important that these did not harm existing reuse mechanisms, Mr Böschen told a question-and-answer session moderated by the Textiles Division’s General Delegate Alan Wheeler of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association. “We need to ensure that the waste hierarchy will be followed in future, putting reuse always above recycling,” insisted Mr Böschen.

Maud Hardy, Circular Economy Director at France-based Eco TLC, explained that 70% of her EPR organization’s budget was devoted to the support of sorting, 20% to communications and 10% to studies/innovation. A large proportion of the 52 innovation projects supported since 2010 had focused on open-loop solutions because these represented potentially high-volume outlets.

The guest speaker outlined the following priorities for her organization: investing to create a successful industrialization of recycling solutions; improvement of product durability throughout its life-cycle; increasing the collection of used textiles and footwear both in terms of quantity and quality; and optimizing sorting efficiency for reuse and recycling, for example, through the adoption of new technologies. EPR made sense only “if we are able to connect the integrators of recycled materials with the manufacturers of these materials”, she said.

Mehdi Zerroug, Director of Eco Textile in France and former President of the BIR Textiles Division, agreed with Ms Hardy that EPR schemes should be tailored to the circumstances of each individual country. He had earlier pointed out that reuse provided an established commercial outlet for 60% of collection volumes whereas little if any revenue was derived from the remaining 40% comprised of material for recycling. With mandatory separate collection likely to yield an overall decrease in quality and value, new recycling solutions would be required – particularly for the non-reusable component. The fashion and recycling industries would need to work together, he added, “for an improved circularity of the textiles”.

Mauro Scalia, Director of Sustainable Businesses at the Belgium-based European apparel and textile confederation EURATEX, acknowledged the environmental challenges facing the “resource-intensive” textiles industry and stated: “We need to find new ways for making, using and disposing of products. New partnerships need to be built between the textiles industry and the collection/recycling part of the value chain.”

Mr Scalia added that EPR schemes should be designed to support circularity, should value different textiles that may need different recycling routes and should solve “real problems”. At the same time, no EPR scheme should cause “detrimental unintended consequences”, he insisted. 

Textiles: Stocks could take “18 to 24 months” to return to normal levels

“We are currently in a situation that, in some markets and areas, the prices of unsorted, post-consumer textiles are lower than the costs for collection,” he told the Division’s eForum on June 23. This situation has put collection, sorting and recycling “at risk” and, if it were to continue, “it could be the end of many current collection systems”.

The pandemic-related closure of many retail outlets around the world had contributed to a huge increase in inventories of both raw materials and sorted goods, and thus to “a substantial decrease in prices”. Stocks at collection and processing companies were estimated to be “three to four times higher than usual for this time of year”. Even in the more positive scenarios, it would take “18 to 24 months until the current stocks have been reduced to normal levels and we can speak of business as usual”, Mr Böschen warned.

“Depending on the market,” he said, “current retail revenues are said to be 40-60% (of the norm) in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, as well as in the open South American countries, and up to around 80% in North-West Europe and in the USA.”

Given the prospect of EU-wide mandatory separate collections of textiles and footwear by the year 2025, the remainder of the meeting focused on the role of extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes in maximizing textiles reuse and recycling. Whatever new systems were put in place, it was important that these did not harm existing reuse mechanisms, Mr Böschen told a question-and-answer session moderated by the Textiles Division’s General Delegate Alan Wheeler of the UK’s Textile Recycling Association. “We need to ensure that the waste hierarchy will be followed in future, putting reuse always above recycling,” insisted Mr Böschen.

Maud Hardy, Circular Economy Director at France-based Eco TLC, explained that 70% of her EPR organization’s budget was devoted to the support of sorting, 20% to communications and 10% to studies/innovation. A large proportion of the 52 innovation projects supported since 2010 had focused on open-loop solutions because these represented potentially high-volume outlets.

The guest speaker outlined the following priorities for her organization: investing to create a successful industrialization of recycling solutions; improvement of product durability throughout its life-cycle; increasing the collection of used textiles and footwear both in terms of quantity and quality; and optimizing sorting efficiency for reuse and recycling, for example, through the adoption of new technologies. EPR made sense only “if we are able to connect the integrators of recycled materials with the manufacturers of these materials”, she said.

Mehdi Zerroug, Director of Eco Textile in France and former President of the BIR Textiles Division, agreed with Ms Hardy that EPR schemes should be tailored to the circumstances of each individual country. He had earlier pointed out that reuse provided an established commercial outlet for 60% of collection volumes whereas little if any revenue was derived from the remaining 40% comprised of material for recycling. With mandatory separate collection likely to yield an overall decrease in quality and value, new recycling solutions would be required – particularly for the non-reusable component. The fashion and recycling industries would need to work together, he added, “for an improved circularity of the textiles”.

Mauro Scalia, Director of Sustainable Businesses at the Belgium-based European apparel and textile confederation EURATEX, acknowledged the environmental challenges facing the “resource-intensive” textiles industry and stated: “We need to find new ways for making, using and disposing of products. New partnerships need to be built between the textiles industry and the collection/recycling part of the value chain.”

Mr Scalia added that EPR schemes should be designed to support circularity, should value different textiles that may need different recycling routes and should solve “real problems”. At the same time, no EPR scheme should cause “detrimental unintended consequences”, he insisted. 

MEPs call on Commission to follow approach in textile strategy

In their letter, MEPs stress the “need to adopt a truly comprehensive approach that deals with the various issues highlighted in [the] civil society strategy, including human rights, environment, governance, and gender”.

Following the announcement of a new ‘comprehensive strategy for textiles’ by the European Commission, in April a collective of 70 civil society organisations proposed their own non-official ‘shadow strategy’ outlining the measures that the EU could take to contribute to fairer and more sustainable global Textile, Garments, Leather and Footwear (TGLF) sector. In today’s letter, MEPs “warmly welcome this civil society proposal” and “invite [the Commission] to follow the approach of this civil society proposal in the development of the comprehensive EU textile strategy”

As Michal Len, RREUSE director, highlighted “It is encouraging to see that MEPs recognise the pressing need for a more just, inclusive and sustainable textile sector. Working hand in hand, the social and circular economy can ensure local jobs, better work integration and inclusion as well as sustainable practices including re-use, repair and recycling”.

The TGLF sector has long been characterised by labour rights and human rights abuses along with the immense pressure it exerts on our environment and climate. The civil society shadow strategy proposed a unified and comprehensive approach to tackling the various problems associated with the TGLF sector.

The civil society vision for a comprehensive EU Textile Strategy contains recommendations including:

  • Ensure companies are legally obligated to take responsibility for not only their own activities but their whole supply chain by applying an EU due diligence law across all sectors, including specific requirements for the TGLF sector. Signing a multi-stakeholder partnership should not exempt business from responsibility.
  • Stricter environmental rules that cover how textile products sold in the EU are designed and produced, legal and financial responsibility on producers for when their products become waste, as well as meaningful measures to promote transparency.
  • Ensuring brands and retailers are legally obliged to honour contracts and end the culture of unfair purchasing practices that gives them impunity to cancel orders without honouring payments – leaving workers without pay and a wasteful pile up of unsellable products.
  • Make governance reforms and better law enforcement in producing countries part of the solution to sustainability issues faced in the TGLF value chains.
  • Through trade policy, use EU market power to leverage sustainable production practices in the TGLF industry.

MEPs call on Commission to follow approach in textile strategy

In their letter, MEPs stress the “need to adopt a truly comprehensive approach that deals with the various issues highlighted in [the] civil society strategy, including human rights, environment, governance, and gender”.

Following the announcement of a new ‘comprehensive strategy for textiles’ by the European Commission, in April a collective of 70 civil society organisations proposed their own non-official ‘shadow strategy’ outlining the measures that the EU could take to contribute to fairer and more sustainable global Textile, Garments, Leather and Footwear (TGLF) sector. In today’s letter, MEPs “warmly welcome this civil society proposal” and “invite [the Commission] to follow the approach of this civil society proposal in the development of the comprehensive EU textile strategy”

As Michal Len, RREUSE director, highlighted “It is encouraging to see that MEPs recognise the pressing need for a more just, inclusive and sustainable textile sector. Working hand in hand, the social and circular economy can ensure local jobs, better work integration and inclusion as well as sustainable practices including re-use, repair and recycling”.

The TGLF sector has long been characterised by labour rights and human rights abuses along with the immense pressure it exerts on our environment and climate. The civil society shadow strategy proposed a unified and comprehensive approach to tackling the various problems associated with the TGLF sector.

The civil society vision for a comprehensive EU Textile Strategy contains recommendations including:

  • Ensure companies are legally obligated to take responsibility for not only their own activities but their whole supply chain by applying an EU due diligence law across all sectors, including specific requirements for the TGLF sector. Signing a multi-stakeholder partnership should not exempt business from responsibility.
  • Stricter environmental rules that cover how textile products sold in the EU are designed and produced, legal and financial responsibility on producers for when their products become waste, as well as meaningful measures to promote transparency.
  • Ensuring brands and retailers are legally obliged to honour contracts and end the culture of unfair purchasing practices that gives them impunity to cancel orders without honouring payments – leaving workers without pay and a wasteful pile up of unsellable products.
  • Make governance reforms and better law enforcement in producing countries part of the solution to sustainability issues faced in the TGLF value chains.
  • Through trade policy, use EU market power to leverage sustainable production practices in the TGLF industry.

Coronavirus strengthens case for new EU textile laws

They have done so by releasing a non-official (or “shadow”) strategy in which they propose a set of legislative and non- legislative actions that the EU can undertake to contribute to fairer and more sustainable TGLF value chains.

The group – a broad coalition3 of campaigners for fair trade, human and workers’ rights, environmental protection, and transparency – is calling on the European Commission, MEPs, and EU governments to back an ambitious strategy that will kick-start a global re-design of the textile industry’s broken business model for the post-coronavirus world.

The TGLF sector has long been characterised by labour rights and human rights abuses along with the immense pressure it exerts on our environment and climate.

Members of the European Parliament Delara Burkhardt (S&D), Heidi Hautala (Chair of the Responsible Business Conduct Working Group, from Greens/EFA), and Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL) have addressed a joint letter to all the Members of the European Parliament to share and support the ‘Civil Society Shadow Strategy’. In the letter, the MEPs stress that “the textile sector has been among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 crisis due to the power imbalances among its actors and its severe structural problems, including the environmental damage it causes and governance issues. It is one of the most polluting industries, the source of countless catastrophes like that of Rana Plaza, and a hotspot for human rights abuses – which affect women disproportionately”.

Representing the coalition, Sergi Corbalán, executive director of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office said: “Voluntary industry action has failed to bring about a fair and sustainable textile industry, so it’s time for EU leaders to reset the industry’s structure” and added “This ‘Shadow Strategy’ offers the Commission the combined expertise of 65 Civil Society Organisations who have years of experience in dealing with the various impacts of the sector. It’s not a menu from which the Commission can pick specific initiatives and leave others behind, but a comprehensive strategy in which taking action in each field reinforces the efforts put into others”.

The civil society vision for a comprehensive EU Textile Strategy contains recommendations including:

  • Ensure companies are legally obligated to take responsibility for not only their own activities but their whole supply chain by applying an EU due diligence law across all sectors, including specific requirements for the TGLF sector. Signing a multi-stakeholder partnership should not exempt business from responsibility.
  • Stricter environmental rules that cover how textile products sold in the EU are designed and produced, legal and financial responsibility on producers for when their products become waste, as well as meaningful measures to promote transparency.
  • Ensuring brands and retailers are legally obliged to honour contracts and end the culture of unfair purchasing practices that gives them impunity to cancel orders without honouring payments – leaving workers without pay and a wasteful pile up of unsellable products.
  • Make governance reforms and better law enforcement in producing countries part of the solution to sustainability issues faced in the TGLF value chains.
  • Through trade policy, use EU market power to leverage sustainable production practices in the TGLF industry.