Coming Full Circle: Innovating towards Sustainable Man-Made Cellulosic Fibres
The aim of the Full Circle Textiles Project is to address the first two problems highlighted in Chapter 3 in this report – that is reducing the amount of textiles going to waste whilst simultaneously alleviating the resource strain on virgin materials through the recycling of used textiles.
Building off the findings of the BCG and Fashion for Good report as introduced above, the Full Circle Textiles Project aims to bring together a consortium of relevant stakeholders required to demonstrate the viability of the innovative technologies and enable these solutions to scale. Fashion for Good plays the role of the orchestrator; bringing together a targeted consortium of four of these stakeholders whilst laying the foundation for a structured innovation process.
Brand partners, Kering and PVH Corp. bring hands-on operational support to the project in the production of finished garments, with themselves and Target also providing financial support for the most promising technologies. Laudes Foundation are too providing financial support, thus facilitating equal financial opportunity for the innovators participating. Birla Cellulose will be responsible for the conversion of cellulosic pulp made from recycled textile waste to fibre and subsequent testing – providing valuable industry expertise to the innovators. Birla Cellulose will also work closely with the innovators to optimise the recycled content in the fibre.
BIRLA CELLULOSE’S COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY AND INNOVATION
Birla Cellulose make for a suitable supply chain partner for four key reasons:
- Strong focus on R&D and lab scale pilots plants – Their lab scale, kilo scale and ton scale pilot facilities are well suited to test small amounts of output, giving innovators the ability to refine their offering and receive feedback
- Experience in developing their own cotton recycling technology provides expertise to accelerate project progress.
- Commitment to sustainability, including chemical and wastewater management – Their Nagda plant is in the process of becoming the first Zero Liquid Discharge viscose fibre plant – recovering 96% of the wastewater feed. Birla Cellulose have also committed $170 million towards upgrading closed loop technologies across its global sites in order to meet EU BAT requirements and ZDHC guidelines by 202274.
- Commitment to responsible forestry practices – Birla Cellulose achieved low risk on their CanopyStyle audit for sourcing from ancient and endangered forests and a ‘green shirt’ in the 2019 Hot Button Ranking (see page 9 for explanation)
On the innovator side, selected chemical recycling innovators are responsible for demonstrating that their product can meet industry requirement’s in both a qualitative and quantitative way. The participating innovators are as follows Evrnu, Infinited Fiber Company, Phoenxt, Renewcell and Tyton BioSciences.
The need of the hour is to co-create sustainable solutions for the fashion industry that can be scaled rapidly and economically.Mr. Dilip Gaur, Business Director, Birla Cellulose, Aditya Birla Group
The Full Circle Textiles Project was initiated in January 2020 with the focus on scouting and researching all innovation globally able to conduct cellulosic textile-to-textile chemical recycling. Simultaneously the consortium group was gathered with key roles and responsibilities within the project being established. Thereafter the project structure was formulated, and the group mobilised for phases one and two.
The first part of the Full Circle Textiles Project aims to provide a comparative assessment between the different innovators. Due to the complexity of the technology, and the existing lack of structure to assessing innovation as mentioned previously, it is challenging to decipher which technologies to support and assist in scaling in the long term. In order to achieve this, a group of selected innovators will be invited to take part in a self-assessment process that will serve as a comparative due-diligence. The assessment is focused on five key areas; the environmental impact of the technology, the input/feedstock required, the output, the company structure as well as the technology and any associated risks to scaling.
The second part of the Full Circle Textiles Project moves from assessment to implementation; with a select number of innovators being invited from Phase 1 to produce cellulosic output from waste textiles that will be processed into fibres, yarns and eventually end garments for participating brand partners Kering and PVH Corp. This will provide innovators with the opportunity to validate their technology with established supply chain partners, as well as provide brands the ability to pioneer the integration of recycled textiles into their production. Moreover, by involving an upstream manufacturing partner in the conversion of cellulosic pulp to fibre, the Full Circle Textiles Project aims to initiate long-standing partnerships and knowledge sharing between the different stakeholders.
The completion of the second phase will signal project close and a report outlining the key learnings will be published to be utilised and shared across the industry and consumers alike. Whilst the Full Circle Textiles Project formally ends at that point, the aspiration is for these learnings to be adopted by other industry stakeholders to accelerate scaling of these technologies. Once the innovators’ output has been validated by established industry players, this should help to de-risk the perception of the technology, thus mobilising and unlocking more investment in these disruptive chemical recycling solutions. The extensive assessment of innovation in both phases one and two above should lead to further offtake agreements from the brands, which is essential to signalling demand to investors, further stimulating investment. The project structure has been formulated to place the innovators in the best position to enable action to scale.