Layered textiles

Fashion and textiles case studies

Examples of the circular economy in action

Fashion and textiles

Our biggest untapped opportunity is to change the way we make, use, and design products to cut our carbon emissions much further and faster.

Alongside the climate and biodiversity benefits of a shift from a linear to a circular economy, businesses around the world are discovering the commercial benefits of circularity.

Though WRAP is already helping to develop a circular economy for fashion and textiles, there are other examples of circular economy in action:

ASDA (Textiles 2030 signatory)

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Preloved Vintage teamed up with George@Asda to adapt to the restrictions of lockdown and continue to sell vintage and second-hand clothing. Due to Preloved Vintage’s former business model being event-based, holding regular ‘Preloved kilo sales’, they decided to move the business in-store and online to help keep the business afloat. The values of George and Preloved Vintage strongly aligned with each other, and the respective business models could easily be adapted to help create and sell sustainable clothing together.

The partnership was all about making good quality vintage and pre-owned clothes accessible for George’s customers. Both Preloved Vintage and George have developed processes to ensure the garment quality is perfect, and that stock is consistently replenished. To engage George’s customers into the second-hand and vintage market, items with emotional appeal have been selected, including vintage sportswear and denim jeans and jackets.

From a business perspective, the model makes perfect sense and Preloved is a able to manage the price, so items are fair and affordable to customers. The partners are hoping to attract attention from younger customers, with the rising popularity in re-sale sites, and are hoping this popularity of vintage and second-hand fashion continues to grow. Such partnerships are key examples of how principles of the circular economy can be adapted to business models to re-use textiles and extend their lifetime, thus reducing the need for consumers to buy new clothing products from virgin materials.

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Primark (Textiles 2030 Signatory)

To encourage a culture of sustainable consumption, in July 2020 Primark asked customers to bring their unwanted clothing, textiles, footwear, and bags into any store in the UK to be re-used or recycled. With 190 stores nationwide, take-back bins were introduced to help reduce textiles waste and to tackle one of Primark’s key sustainability goals. By having customers donate unwanted garments to be re-used and recycled, the lifetime of clothing and other textiles can be prolonged. The main goal is for items of clothing, footwear, and accessories to be re-used, but where this isn’t possible, the raw materials from donations are reprocessed into new products. New uses for the materials include stuffing for toys, mattress filling, or home insulation.

Partners in the take-back scheme, recycling specialists Yellow Octopus, have a clear ‘no landfill’ policy. Working together with Primark, the collaboration helps to divert around one million garments from landfill every month. Any profits generated from the unwanted clothing sold on by Yellow Octopus, go to Primark’s global charity partner, UNICEF, to support education programmes for vulnerable children worldwide.

These major steps are helping Primark to reduce their footprint across the entire value chain, and minimise their environmental impact through the adoption of circular economy principles. Primark’s take-back scheme helps the fashion industry ‘close the loop’ by allowing customers to easily return and recycle unwanted items.

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Outdoor apparel company, Patagonia, is widely recognised across the world for its commitment towards producing quality products while taking into consideration their environmental impact. To firmly make their mark in the world of circular fashion, Patagonia partnered with Infinited Fiber Company, a textile technology group with a focus on developing premium-quality regenerated textile fiber, InfinnaTM.

The major deal is a huge stepping-stone in helping to make textile circularity the everyday norm. Infinna is created from cotton-rich textile waste, with the unique virgin-quality regenerated fibre possessing the soft and natural-looking qualities of cotton. Furthermore, Infinna is biodegradable due to it being made of the plant-based cellulose and contains no microplastics. The clothes made with it are recyclable and have the same longevity as similar products made with virgin materials.

To meet the growing demand for Infinna, Infinited Fiber Company are developing plans to build a flagship factory in Finland. The planned factory will have enough capacity to produce roughly 100 million t-shirts made with 100% Infinna every year. With the global textile fibre market expected to grow 30% by 2030, Infinited Fiber Company offer a solution to address the growing issue of textile waste produced by the industry. Partnered with Patagonia, the collaboration adopts principles of the circular economy by reducing waste using fibres that can extend the lifetime of clothing and be recycled after use, thus ‘closing the loop’. Patagonia are one of the leading global fashion brands adopting sustainable practices, with such actions helping to reduce the immense pressures of the textile industry on the planet’s limited natural resources.

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Other examples of Sustainable Consumption and Production initiatives are listed in the One Planet Network database.

Read more about the circular economy