Enough has been said and done about sustainability. People are now familiar with what, why and how of it. But, what about textile waste management system in India? Is enough being done to tackle pre and post consumer textile waste generated by each and every one of us? Fashion For Good, global platform for fashion and textile innovation for a better tomorrow, launched their report ‘Sorting for Circularity Project’ where they cover India’s true potential when it comes to circular textile waste resource. We talked to Priyanka Khanna, Head of Asia Expansion, Fashion For Good, to further shed some light on this report and how they aim to bring a change through it.
What role has Fashion for Good played in the Sorting for Circularity Project?
Sorting For Circularity India Project, initiated and led by Fashion for Good, is a consortium project to understand both the pre-consumer and post-consumer textile waste streams in India, and to pilot sorting and mapping solutions. The project aims to build an infrastructure towards greater circularity in the years to come.
The project brings together industry players including Fashion for Good partners adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., PVH Corp., Arvind Limited, Birla Cellulose and Welspun India and non-partners Tesco and Primark. A key technology partner for the project is Fashion for Good innovator Reverse Resources who provides the analysis of the pre-consumer textile waste streams in addition to designing and running the pre-consumer pilot. The project is supported through catalytic funding provided by Laudes Foundation.
How has the Sorting for Circularity project benefited the textile industry?
Through its three objectives, the project is aimed at demonstrating the circular model for textile waste through the implementation of innovative technology.
“Wealth in Waste: India’s potential to bring textile waste back to the supply chain” the first output of the project, is a textile waste landscape study commissioned by Fashion for Good to understand the textile waste supply chain. Visibility of the textile waste supply chain, materials and quantities is a step towards organising the textile waste market. The first-of-its-kind study has created visibility, awareness, piqued interest for all stakeholders including the industry bodies and governments. Awareness is the first step towards addressing the problem.
The next two outputs of the project are aimed at demonstrating closing the loop of different types of textile waste.
A Pre-consumer pilot in which 6 brands and 19 manufacturers are currently involved is in-progress. The textile waste from various factories has been sorted and digitally mapped and is now moving to selected recyclers. Through this pilot, we are creating traceability of pre-consumer waste from factories and increasing valorisations of waste.
A Post-consumer pilot, which is set to launch in November 2022 will demonstrate the potential structure of post-consumer garment waste valorisation and will test technology that can make this possible. At the end of this project, Fashion for Good will focus on scaling and implementing the technologies.
Why can India be a leader in the Textile Waste Management segment? Which Indian companies and organisations have been a part of the report?
India is uniquely positioned as one of the largest manufacturing as well as a growing consumption region of the world. This implies large quantities of textile waste is generated both at manufacturing, that is pre-consumer waste, and at the end of use by consumers, that is post-consumer waste. Moreover, India is also a prime destination for post-consumer waste export from various western countries. While India further exports most of this waste, some of it filters into India’s informal sector. Aside from this, the textile recycling infrastructure and an informal supply chain of textile waste has existed in India for decades. Given these factors, India is an attractive market for developing effective textile waste solutions with the access to large quantities of waste and proximity to manufacturers who can use the recycled fibres.
Even with the above opportunity, there are significant challenges that must be addressed for India to build its leadership in Textile Waste. Some of the challenges are systemic changes such as formalising the informal supply chain and others require more technology influx such as technology for creating transparency, sorting of materials and upgrading the recycling infrastructure such as bringing in chemical recycling technologies and upgrading mechanical recycling technologies.
Our report, Wealth in Waste, identifies these opportunities and challenges in depth. We have interviewed over 300 organisations across the country including brands, manufacturers, mechanical and chemical recyclers, waste handlers, importers and dry waste collection centres.
How have Reverse resources, Sattva Consulting & Saahas Zero Waste helped conduct the study and recycling process for the Sorting for Circularity Project?
The report commissioned by Fashion for Good has been executed by these three organisations. Reverse resources is a mapping platform, an innovator from Estonia supported by the Fashion for Good Innovation Programme. They, along with Saatva consulting, led the pre-consumer waste research and analysis. Saahas Zero Waste is a pioneering organisation focused on addressing the waste challenges in India with onground material recovery facilities. They led the post-consumer textile waste research and analysis. As part of the project, Saahas Zero Waste also conducted a pilot manually assessing the material composition of 8000 disposed garments collected from residential areas in Bangalore. Sattva Consulting, a leading consulting firm in social impact, led the imported waste research and analysis, acted as a lead consultant and in collaboration with Fashion for Good, connected the narratives from different waste streams together to craft a compelling image of the Indian sorting and recycling landscape.
How does the Sorting for Circularity project contribute to the reduction of pre-and post-consumer waste? In what ways does Fashion for Good incorporate new technology and innovators into this decision?
Sorting for Circularity India’s goal is to organise the textile waste and create transparency in the waste supply chain such that high quality, traceable waste is accessible to recycling technologies both through traditional mechanical recycling, as well as advanced chemical recycling technologies as they gain traction in the Indian market. High quality, traceable waste can be valorised to its full potential, and thus make it back into the supply chain as new fibres.
Fashion for Good, though this project, aims to demonstrate that formalisation of the waste supply chain and the use of various technologies to create visibility and access to high quality waste material can lead to higher recycling potential of textile waste. The project brings mapping platform Reverse Resources to India to trace the waste, as well as NIR (Near Infra-Red) and AI (Artificial Intelligence) based sorting technologies like Matoha and Picvisa to test their solutions in various pilots in the project.
What is the role that Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) plays in reintroducing textile waste into the supply chain?
AEPC recognises the challenges of the textile industry, in particular with respect to textile waste. They have come forward to support the SFCI initiative by way of educating their members and other textile industry stakeholders about the waste and have supported Fashion for Good in disseminating the report and starting a conversation in the industry about best practices about textile waste.