The Circular Economy for Textiles: closing the loop
Professor of Fashion Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University.
David Tyler had a background in industrial physics and operations management before joining Higher Education. He is Professor of Fashion Technologies at Manchester Metropolitan University. His research interests in the product development process and the complexity of clothing supply chains have guided his work on sustainability in the Textile sector. This led to his participation in the EU project Resyntex, which is the theme of his presentation. David is based in the Manchester Fashion Institute (MFI), which is one of the largest providers of fashion education in the UK.
The past two decades have witnessed massive conceptual leaps towards producer responsibility and the Circular Economy (CE). The goal is not to minimise waste and environmental impacts, but to turn wastes into resources. Materials are recycled rather than buried or incinerated.
Numerous pre-competitive projects have been funded by governments to further the CE goal. Most of these have addressed specific sub-sectors of the textile supply chain, but one has considered the issues comprehensively. This is the Resyntex project, a Horizon 2020 initiative funded by the EU, with 20 partners. Manchester Metropolitan University has been an integral part of the team during its 4-year duration. This lecture provides an overview of the project and its achievements. Textile wastes throughout the EU have been analysed; different approaches to collection identified; automated sorting by fibre type has been developed; chemical processing routes for the major fibre types have been determined; further chemical processing to produce feedstocks for the next cycle of industrial activity have been explored. Alongside this has been work on consumer behaviour and on CE business models. Notably, a pilot plant capable of processing 100 tonnes of waste textiles per year has been constructed, and is operating, in Slovenia.
We are now at the stage of having technology solutions to the challenges of implementing CE, although it is recognised that further technology-related work is advantageous. However, there are still major cultural barriers that need to be addressed. These affect retailing (the messages accompanying the products), the supply chain (which needs to be more open to industrial symbiosis), the consumers (who make choices about what to purchase and what to dispose), political leaders (who need to address regulation to support industrial change), and designers (whose decisions are crucial if CE is to become a reality). Technologically, we can close the loop, but culturally, we have still a long way to go!