Worn Again: circular textile recycling technology for (almost) zero textile waste

1. Sustainability Problem: Textile waste

The U.S. EPA estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space.

While the EPA estimates that the textile recycling industry recycles approximately 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) each year, this only accounts for approximately 15% of all PCTW, leaving 85% in our landfills.

The average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually.

Decomposing clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to global warming. There are dyes and chemicals in fabric and other components of clothing and shoes that can leach into the soil, contaminating both surface and groundwater.

2. Technology solution: Worn Again

Worn Again has been developing chemical recycling for over three years and through trials and lab experiments they are perfecting a process where solvents are used to selectively dissolve different types of textiles, recapturing them as a raw material, which can be used to make new clothes, thus being reintroduced into the supply chain as new. Within the Textile Sorting Project Worn Again is dedicated to achieving the shared goal of creating circular supply chains for textiles through collaboration and new technologies.

The tests for this new technology, which will be monitored by H&M and Puma, are built around separating and extracting polyester and cotton from blended fiber clothing. Another task will be to separate dyes and other particles from polyester and cellulose, which has always been a challenge when recycling. The raw materials that are recaptured can then be used to spin new fabric for clothes. This circular process will have an extremely positive effect on bringing down the need for virgin resources and as such reduces carbon emissions, as well as the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or exhaustion of land for growing crops.

Worn Again isn’t the first to develop a textile-to-textile technology. In 2014, Swedish scientists developed a process to recycle cotton by shredding clothes to pulp and turning the substance into threads of viscose. The company responsible for making the pulp is now preparing its first fabric-recycling factory and teaming up with several entrepreneurs in the textile industry.

The stakeholders

  • The product developer (Worn Again)
  • The subsidizing companies (H&M, Puma)
  • Local governments / NGOs to foster usage of this product

Deployment

  • The team is currently engaged in full time development of a circular recycling technology for the textile and clothing industry, working closely with its’ development partners, H&M and Kering Group’s Sports & Lifestyle brand Puma.
  • H&M and Puma have enough infrastructure to deploy the product worldwide with a strong marketing campaign. However, costs should be mitigated in order to make the products accessible and the process economically viable.
  • Consequently, support from NGOs and local governments is key to allow tax reduction on recycled clothing and recycling plant set-up in order to lower costs as present them as feasible alternatives.

Links

Online Body Measurements to Reduce Energy Use

fits-me_4demo

Problem: Textile and Energy Waste due to Improper Body Measurements  

Online retailers use a lot of energy when it comes to shipping and reshipping items that don’t fit their customers properly or due to material quality satisfaction, and or customer’s just not liking what is sent to them. These items are returned or even thrown away by the customer, ending up in landfills- increasing textile waste.

Technology: 10 awesome innovations changing the future of fashion” by Melissa Breyer

A new technology promotes “smart” online shopping, which has the potential to reduce returned items, minimizing shipping energy and limiting waste. The companies, MyShape and Fits Me, have developed a patented technology that matches shopper with items that correspond to their personal measurements and style preferences. The latter even has a virtual fitting room with a shape-shifting robotic mannequin that mimics your personal body shape so that it can find an exact size and fit. This technology has found success at online German retailer, Quelle, which saw returns reduced by up to 28%, saving energy and money.

Stakeholders:

Smart online shopping tech engineers/designers

MyShape and Fits Me designers

Technological partners

Investors

Fashion designers

Online clothing retailers

Customers

Implementation:

In order to implement this technology on a large-scale, a number of investors need to be introduced

Fits Me and MyShape both appear to be European companies, and in order for it to have an even bigger impact, it must be introduced to the US market, which has a big influence in the fashion industry

Smart online shopping connects both fashion and technology. In order for this specific kind of engineering to take flight, there should be promotion and marketing geared towards students and designers who would be interested in furthering this field

Sources:

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/10-awesome-innovations-changing-future-fashion.html

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Fit Origin

Zero Percent, a Food Rescue App

food

  • Sustainability Problem
    • Up to a third of harvested food is wasted.  This inefficiency causes higher water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions than would otherwise be necessary to feed the population.
    • In industrialized countries up to 40% of food waste happens at the consumer site when people and restaurants discard unused items from their kitchens.
    • At the same time, 1.2B people globally do not have enough food to eat.
  • Technology/Solution
    • Zero Percent is an app that allows commercial restaurants to donate their food to charities like soup kitchens and food banks.
    • Donor lists the food items available and non profits can select the products that are right for them (for example, bulk nonperishable items could be more appropriate for a food bank) and schedule a pickup
    • The restaurants are charged a fee for participating and presumably less food waste reduces the overall waste disposal costs for the restaurant.
  • Stakeholders
    • Restaurants
    • Nonprofits that serve food to low income populations
    • Non profits already in the food rescue business (ex: City Harvest)
  • Implementation Steps
    • Market to businesses with clear business case for waste cost savings
    • Partner with existing food rescue organizations
    • Invest in drafting and complying with local food safety guidelines to protect brand.
    • Aggressive targeted community outreach to build strong networks of donors and recipients in select communities.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3058031/food-week/these-startups-want-to-bring-surplus-food-to-those-in-need

http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2016/03/10/zero-percent-food-waste-startup-twin-cities.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/05/food-loss-waste-trillion-dollar-crisis-yieldwise-initiative-column/80942166/

http://www.zeropercent.us/

Digital Printing: A Possible Revolution for Dyeing Textiles

digital printing

Problem: Textile Waste and Water Use Caused by Fabric Dying  

Traditionally dying textiles causes a number of environmental problems like excessive use of water and landfill overspill due to textile waste.

Technology: 10 awesome innovations changing the future of fashion10 awesome innovations changing the future of fashion” by Melissa Breyer

One technology, digital printing, implemented by Huntsman Textile Effects, uses a process in which prints are directly applied to fabrics with printers, reducing 95% the use of water, 75% the use of energy, and reducing fabric waste. Huntsman does this with a variety of different inks like acid ink, disperse ink, pigment ink and reactive dyes, all of which use cutting-edge technology to create more sustainable products.

Stakeholders:

Huntsman tech engineers/designers

Technological partners

Investors

Fashion designers

Clothing retailers

Customers

Implementation:

In order to implement this technology on a large-scale, a number of investors need to be introduced

Huntsman is worldwide big company, however, it only manufactures in China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand. It must be introduced to the US market and other other European countries that have a big influence in the fashion industry.

Fashion designers must begin to use the technology to introduce the innovation to the public and encourage its usage down the supply chain i.e. factories and low-end designers/retailers. For example, it has already been used by designers like Mary Katrantzou, Alexander McQueen and Basso & Brooke.

Sources:

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/10-awesome-innovations-changing-future-fashion.html

http://www.huntsman.com/textile_effects/a/Solutions/Textile%20End%20Use%20Solutions/Digital%20Printing

http://www.huntsman.com/textile_effects/a/About%20Us

Public urinal generates electricity from urine

160706092216_1_540x360

The Sustainability Problem:

The more we learn about the negative effects of fossil fuels, the more the world is looking to alternative and renewable sources of energy. New technology has been explored to create energy from various waste streams for many years now. Focus is on looking at waste readily available in particular locales and finding new uses for them, including energy generation.

The Technology Solution:

A new technology has figured out a way to create energy from human urine through the process of bacteria metabolism. By designing special urinals to capture the urine and introduce the bacteria, they are able to harness the energy. The Science News article explains the technology this way:

“The technology in the prototype is based on microbial fuel cells (MFC), which, like batteries, has an anode and a cathode,” explains Irene Merino, who is a researcher on the team thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and works alongside another Spanish worker, Daniel Sánchez.

The cells are installed inside a container which collects the urine, currently only from male users due to the design of the urinals. Inside, bacteria colonise the anode electrode and act as a catalyst, decomposing the organic material in the pee.

This decomposition releases both protons, which travel from the anode to the cathode across a semipermeable membrane, and electrons, which travel through an external electrical circuit. To complete the cycle, an oxygen reduction reaction also takes place in the cathode. The process generates enough energy to power light bulbs or LED tubes.

Stakeholders:

  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (funding the research grant)
  • University of the West of England and the Spanish researchers (research university)
  • Urinal makers who will mass produce the technology
  • Glastonbury festival workers and attendees (where the prototypes are being tested)
  • Refugee camp workers and residents (where the tested prototypes will be installed for further testing)

Implementation:

  • Develop a set of prototypes to test at the Glastonbury festival to test mass use of the technology
  • Take learnings from the test at Glastonbury and create further improvements to the urinals
  • Deploy improved urinals in one refugee camp test site for a second testing of the new prototype
  • Create further improvements until the technology is ready to be deployed in a larger scale
  • Submit reports to Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to identify successes, possibly secure extra funding for next phase of the project

Source:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160706092216.htm

Fabric Made of Food

qmilk

Problem: Milk Waste 

In Germany every year 1.9 million tons of good milk is disposed of . This waste is costing manufacturers, as well as contributing to food waste and landfill overspill.

Technology: “When Technology Meets Fashion” by Charles Morley

In 2011, German micro-biology student, Anke Domaske, discovered t a way to make textiles out of milk, tea and coffee beans. She then launched Qmilk, which produces fabrics made from 100% biodegradable/renewable materials, mainly raw cow milk. In order to do this “you add the protein powder – it looks like flour – to water and you mix it into a dough. Then there’s a nozzle at the end with teeny tiny holes that put out textile fibres instead of noodles”. Qmilk 1 kg of fiber only needs 5 minutes to produce and max. 2 liters of water, this means it can be more cost efficient as well as produce fewer CO2 emissions. finally, it is naturally antibacterial, which means it can be used for those with sensitive skin or textile allergies.

Stakeholders:

Qmilk tech engineers/designers

Technological partners

Investors

Fashion designers

Clothing retailers

Customers

Implementation:

In order to implement this technology on a large-scale, a number of investors need to be introduced

Qmilk is a small company, based in Germany. In order to spread the technology, it must be introduced to the US market and other European countries that have a big influence in the fashion industry.

Fashion designers must begin to use the technology to introduce the innovation to the public and encourage its usage down the supply chain i.e. factories and low-end designers/retailers.

Sources:

When Technology Meets Sustainable Fashion

http://de.qmilk.eu/presite/index_en.html

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sour-milk-fibres-textiles-qmilk

 

Smart Tailoring

smart tailoring

Problem: Textile Waste

Textile waste is a major issue in the fashion industry, leading to increased waste material and cluttered landfills, not to mention wasted time, energy and money.

Technology: “10 awesome innovations changing the future of fashion” by Melissa Breyer

A new technology produced by Indian designer, Siddhartha Upadhyaya, called the Direct Panel on Loom (DPOL), also referred to as Smart Tailoring, is way to increase fabric efficiency by up to 15%. It can also reduce lead time by 50%. “By using a computer attached to a loom, data such as color, pattern and size related to the garment is entered, and the loom cranks out the exact pieces — which then just need to be constructed.” With this technology, weaving, fabric cutting, and patterning happen all at once. This process ends up minimizing fabric waste and saves energy and water by 70-80%.

Stakeholders:

Smart Tailoring tech engineers/designers

Technological partners

Investors

Fashion designers

Clothing retailers

Customers

Implementation:

In order to implement this technology on a large-scale, a number of investors need to be introduced

Smart Tailoring should start a campaign marketing the technology to both low-end and high-end textile suppliers, proving that the process could be cheaper in general, save the company money, time and energy

Fashion designers must begin to use the technology to introduce the innovation to the public and encourage its usage down the supply chain i.e. factories and low-end designers/retailers.

Sources:

http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-fashion/10-awesome-innovations-changing-future-fashion.html

http://www.treehugger.com/style/high-tech-meets-low-waste-in-new-computer-generated-eco-fashion.html