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WAKEFIELD – Ahead of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, we’re bringing to you part one of a new five-part audio documentary series, in affiliation with forest industry group Södra, that will explore how diverting textiles from landfill can accelerate the industry’s environmental ambitions.  

In this first episode, Ecotextile Talks host Philip Berman speaks to Södra’s technical product director Johannes Bogren, the founder of Accelerating Circularity Karla Magruder, circular fashion researcher and consultant Cathryn Hall, and Nicole Rycroft, who founded the environmental non-profit Canopy.  

For Rycroft, it’s the rise of fast fashion that has “revolutionised” and “turbo-charged” unsustainable overconsumption. 

“It used to be that we’d buy things thinking about wearing them in another 10 years’ time, rather than buying things and thinking we might wear them 10 times before we get rid of them. Unsustainable consumption is the driver of many human rights and environmental issues today,” she said.  

Hall echoed these thoughts. “What’s happened is that the fashion industry has taken what was this model of two seasons or four seasons, and it’s just accelerated, not to five or six or eight seasons, they have drops every single week, if not every other week. Our access to clothes, cheap clothes, has never been so high, especially with the rise of online shopping.” 

With this access comes increasing volumes of textile waste, according to Rycroft, who says that three in five of the 100 billion garments produced each year end up in landfill within the first 12 months of their life.  

“I don’t like to put the responsibility in the hands of the consumer,” Magruder commented. “I really believe that it is the supply chains and the brands that have created this problem because they’re the ones that are making it, they’re the ones that have come up with these business models.” 

Such business models have ultimately created a pipeline in which secondhand stock is fed into developing international markets that try to sell on the stock for reuse, unless the quality is too poor.  

In which case, Magruder says: “It goes to what we call ‘wipers’, which are cleaning cloths and then it goes into things like insulation or carpet pads. That hierarchy of sorting makes a lot of sense for their marketplace, it’s businesses that have been around for ages, but it doesn’t suit textile-to-textile recycling because we need it sorted by fibre, by colour and potentially by fabric construction.” 

Enter Södra – a pulp and paper giant that is confident its OnceMore solution can combat post-consumer waste. 

“I’m not the kind of person that sees problems, I see the opportunities,” Borgen tells us. “The key thing is that when we talk about getting our hands on this textile waste, it’s not collected it’s just everywhere.” 

If the company is to scale its chemical recycling solution then, it will require collaboration to streamline its services and take chunks from the mountains of landfilled textile waste. 

Stay tuned for upcoming podcasts in this new series.

Episode 2 will be released next week.

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