Every year, 305 million kilograms of textiles are discarded in the Netherlands. Textile collectors are not able to absorb this huge amount as no clear commercial usage has been identified as profitable enough to invest limited resources. Part is being sold for re-use but the recycle qualities are growing steadily. Business models for these qualities are non-existent. There is an increase in demand for recycled yarns but upscaling the circular processing of textiles lacks behind. Only 1% of current clothing consists of recycled textiles, while the ambition of the Dutch government for 2030 is to increase the application of recycled textiles up to 50% of all produced (textile) products. The goal is to arrive full circle with 100% circular textiles by 2050. This vision requires contemporary business models that optimally balance supply and demand.
"The demand for recycled textile is very limited as it lacks appeal and is considered ‘not attractive’ enough for fashionable and high-quality products."
Textile sorters emphasise that the traditional business model of discarded textiles is under pressure. Besides technical issues, the demand for recycled textile is very limited as it lacks appeal and is considered ‘not attractive’ enough for fashionable and high-quality products. To solve this issue, Trashure combines two objectives:
- Increasing awareness about textile consumption and specifically re-appreciating textile waste.
- Enabling commercialization of an accessible product line that uses textile waste as primary resource.
Collaboration with what or whom
The Hague University (HHS) has partnered with three organisations that represent crucial steps in textile eco-systems. i-did is an inclusive Dutch company that transforms textile waste into designer felt. Internationally acclaimed sustainable haute couture designer Ronald van der Kemp dresses celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Celine Dion and Katy Perry. Sympany is a Dutch textile collector and sorter seeking for new ways to revalue textile waste. Together they aim to offer attractive and sustainable fashion items made from felt: from trash to treasure. Trashure aims to deliver a sustainable business case that offers design as catalyst for the broad acceptance of circular textile as a commercially attractive resource for fashion.
"Next to the human partners, our most important collaboration partner is material in nature: the textile itself. "
Next to the human partners, our most important collaboration partner is material in nature: the textile itself. Imagine that you are a T-shirt that is no longer being worn and is discarded in a textile container. Sympany will collect you and sort you in a warehouse in Utrecht where you’ll be put together with other clothing items. As a batch with your new friends, you are then transported to the i-did factory where you are taken apart into small pieces of fiber. To then be put together again as a new material: felt. The next thing you know is that you’re taken to Amsterdam where Ronald van der Kemp molds you or laser-cuts you into a magnificent couture design. From ending up in a container, not sure what your destiny will be, you then actually get to adorn the body of a famous singer.
"The four partners, each with their own specialism, share a common vision to have maximum positive impact on the fashion industry."
Added value of collaboration
The four partners, each with their own specialism, share a common vision to have maximum positive impact on the fashion industry. Collaborating in project Trashure enhances their capacity to think and act beyond the boundaries and interests of their own organization towards the benefits for the entire eco-system. It triggers their creativity and expands their horizon to take different perspectives into account supporting more results-oriented ways of working. It supports crafting new value webs around reclaiming discarded textiles that ideally will replace current linear textile supply chains. Additionally, for the three company partners Trashure provides an avenue to develop new ways of generating revenue.
Furthermore, the collaboration can be characterized by four key practices:
- First, trust is essential and serves as the basis for all activities undertaken within the partnership. Trusting in each other’s expertise, pure intentions and honesty about what you bring to the partnership are all ingredients for impactful collaboration.
- Second, open communication is crucial to sustain a good relationship. Frustrations and obstacles can be navigated with a quick phone call to clear the sky.
- Third, patience is crucial, for example when the process is delayed by external forces such as covid or technical difficulties. To be able to make time your ‘friend’ instead of ‘enemy’ requires an awareness about what needs to unfold in the moment. And the flexibility to detach from any planning you originally had.
- Fourth, celebrating each other brings joy and a sense of community to the partnership. Small successes are shared via a joint WhatsApp group and shared through the partners’ social media channels. These interactions lift the whole consortium to a level of increased energy and willingness to invest in the partnership.
What has been designed?
Our collaboration and the story we aim to tell comes to life in the artefacts RVDK has designed. They serve as conversation pieces to create awareness and consult with stakeholders in the textile industry about chances to re-design their value chains. Indeed, they function as boundary objects to show a glimpse of what a circular textile future could look like.