From Linear to Circular in the  Textile and Apparel Industries Let’s make the circular shift together.

“Less waste, less pollution  and a longer life span for our  clothing: in a circular economy  we can make this happen.  The Netherlands’ circular  textile market has a lot of  potential, and to scale up  we must seek international  collaboration.  

In the Netherlands, we are  aiming to have at least 30%  recycled material in newly  produced textile products  in 2030. A circular economy  can help us reduce carbon  emissions and water usage  as well as provide as much  as 50.000 jobs.”  

Stientje van Veldhoven,  

State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management


Preface 5 Introduction 6

1. The textile industry - the impact on our everyday life 8

Textiles are embedded in our everyday life 8 The textile industry – value chain 8 The rampant growth of the textile industry 9

2. Why fast fashion within a linear economy has to change 12

The impact of textile industry on our environment 14 The impact of the textile industry on our society 14

3. Disruption is needed 18

What is a circular textile industry? 18 Europe and a circular textile value chain 20

4. Principles to become part of the circular economy 24

The essential first step: circular design 24 The circular production of textiles 26 The increasing impact of online retail on packaging and transport 29 End-of-life options 32

5. Circular business models 38

Tailor-made & “slow fashion” 40 The end of ownership 40 Second hand becoming mainstream 42 Clothing swap 43 Wear & care 43

6. The need for awareness and social responsibility 46 7. The future of circular textiles: what needs to be done? 49 Sources 52



The Netherlands is aiming at developing a fully circular  economy by 2050. An economy without waste, where  everything runs on reusable raw materials.  This goal brings significant challenges to the textile  industry: an industry known as one of the most  polluting in the world. This brochure, developed by  Holland Circular Hotspot and the Netherlands  Enterprise Agency, is dedicated to the opportunities  that circular economy can bring to textiles. We have  included many circular textile examples from our home  base of the Netherlands. There are proven circular best  practices in every part of the supply chain. We believe  that many of these concepts can work and have the  potential to scale in both developed and developing  countries. We also believe that they can work today.

The textile industry has a value chain that spans the  globe, which is making the industry a complex market  with many actors and many challenges. The use of  large quantities of water, chemicals and energy,  the enormous waste the industry generates, pollution,  the well-known poor labour conditions combined with  an increase global fiber demand: it is clear that rigorous  and systematic changes need to be made to the textile  industry. People active in the international field of  sustainability often say that “Textiles will be the new  plastic” referring to the level of recognition that plastic  issues have obtained at consumer level and the support  for local and global actions by public and private  partners.  

We believe that a circular textile value chain is a  blueprint to the future, because circular business  models contribute to the various challenges within the  industry. But the transition to the circular economy  requires systemic change and asks for collaboration,  above all in the textile value chain that is so spread out  over the world. Governments can set the ambition,  boundary conditions and nurture experimentation or  give the example by circular procurement. Researchers  and knowledge institutes can develop new insights and  tools, validate ideas and boost awareness. Global  brands and retailers, especially after COVID-19, should  realise that this is about resilience and about their  future markets. To paraphrase former CEO Feike  Sijbesma of DSM: “how can you claim to be successful as  a company in a society that fails”. Local entrepreneurs  have the guts and imagination to take risks, accelerate  change and deliver scale. Meaningful participation for  

citizens and residents is crucial as they are a driving  actor in the world of fashion and apparel. Educating the  new generation, the leaders, employees and  consumers of the future is crucial, just like boosting  and empowering young circular designers.

The Netherlands is at the forefront of many of these  processes. The Dutch inhabit challenging terrain, a  delta, where successive generations have worked hard  to create a vibrant society in a densely populated and  early-industrialised country. This environment made us  innovative and collaborative: a living lab to pioneer  solutions for global challenges.

By joining forces, Holland Circular Hotspot and the  Netherlands Enterprise Agency have shared our  insights, networks and resources. We would like to  thank the many textile experts and entrepreneurs we  have spoken to and that have inspired us. With this  brochure, we bring their insights and best practices to  the international level with the hope that it will inspire  to take action in other parts of the world and kickstart  circular development. Please don’t hesitate to contact  us for further information.

Tjerk Opmeer

Director International Programmes,  

Netherlands Enterprise Agency

Freek van Eijk

CEO Holland Circular Hotspot



This brochure aims to give a push towards a circular textile  

industry. Circular economy strategies and business models  

have the potential to offer solutions for the textile industry: use  renewable sources, phase out dangerous substances, increase  utilisation, and radically improve reuse and recycling. This  

brochure highlights Dutch circular frontrunners that make a  change. Of course, this brochure includes just a fraction of the  initiatives, organisations and technologies out there. We made  a selection of those examples that have inspired us and have  the potential to be upscaled and implemented in other parts of  the world. Hopefully, these examples will also inspire and  

encourage you to collaborate and make a change.

6 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 7

Chapter 1

The textile  industry -  

the impact on  our everyday  life

Textiles are embedded in our everyday life Textiles are fundamental to our everyday life. Textiles  keep us warm, cool and comfortable. Nowadays,  textiles are applied in two main sectors: textiles for  clothing (conventional textiles) and technical textiles  with numerous applications for nearly all societal  needs.  

We all have a strong cultural and emotional connection  with textiles. Textiles are used to reflect and  communicate our personality and vision. This can be  applied to the clothes that we wear or for example in  our home decor. It shows who we are and how we  connect to others.

The textile industry – value chain  

The textiles industry is an essential sector for the  global economy, representing a 3 trillion dollar  industry1. It is one of the most dynamic, fast-moving  and polluting industries in the world. The textile value  chain covers a broad range of activities through a long  and complicated life-cycle. A simple t-shirt travels (in  most cases) thousands of kilometres along the textile  

and fashion supply chain before it ends up in your  closet. The process starts with the design of the  garment. The first step in the production is the growing  and harvesting of natural fibres (cellulose), made from  plants or animal by-products (such as wool). Man made-fibres, made from for example wood pulp, is used  to extract cellulosic fibres chemically. Synthetic fibres  are made from monomers sourced from fossil oil  feedstocks, which are subsequently polymerised into  different fibres.

Spinning turns the fibres into yarn, and weaving and  knitting turn the yarn into fabric. The fabric can then be  dyed or printed, washed, cut and sewn into garments.  The final step of the production is the finishing of the  garment, such as adding a coating, chemical  treatment, bleach. Thereafter the garments will be  labelled, distributed and transported to the retail  stores. The items are then sold and worn by customers.  At end-of-life or end-of-use, the garments are reused,  recycled, incinerated or sent to landfill.  

The rampant growth of the textile industry  More than half of all the textiles produced globally  account for clothing. According to the Ellen MacArthur  Foundation2 clothing production has doubled in the  past 15 years, and if growth continues as expected,  production will triple by 2050. Clothing and textiles  used to be produced mainly domestically. Today  significant parts of the production phase are  dominated by developing countries predominately in  Asia, and above all by China3. This has mostly to do  with that the textile industry is historically dependent  on cheap labour and on countries that are less  stringent on environmental and social standards and  regulations.

8 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 9

Chapter 2

Why fast  


within a linear  economy has  to change

Compared to two decades ago, we possess twice as  

much clothing as before and on average only wear  

items 7-10 times before being discarded2. Clothing is  

one of the most underutilised products in the world.  

The Ellen MacArthur report2 states that the average  

number of times a garment is worn has decreased by  

36% compared to 15 years ago. Every year consumers  

around the world waste around 460 billion worth of  

clothes. This textile waste often ends up at landfill or  

gets incinerated.  

The “fast fashion” strategy promotes cheap and lower  

quality materials with a short life span. Within 4 to 5  

weeks, big fashion retailers originate a design and  

have the finished goods in the stores ready for sales.  

Every week a new collection of garments arrives.  

These new clothes do not remain on the racks for  

more than a few weeks, encouraging the desirability  

of buying something new. The emergence of fast  

fashion has increased the introduction of short trends  

leading to premature product replacement and  

fashion obsolescence. The fast-fashion business  

model inherently fuels consumerism, leading to  


12 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries  


Textile bought  



Items in closet


Garments p.p. discarded


Pieces of clothing  

bought per year


Items thrown away  


The Dutch clothing mountain:  

For many people it’s fun to buy new stuff;  it brings some variety into our lives. Sadly,  this mentality has a huge effect on the planet.  Every West European consumer buys on  average 22 kg textile annually (Carmichael,  2016). In the Netherlands an average  consumer buys 46 new clothing items per  year. This results in approximately 173 items  in a person’s closet, of which nearly 30 percent  is almost never worn. On average 40 items  per year will be thrown away. Before even  added to the wardrobe, 3 garments per  person are discarded in the supply chain. Source: report Measuring the Dutch Clothing Mountain  (2017), by Maldini et al

The impact of textile industry on our  environment

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting  industries in the world4. There are many environmental  issues noted by the fast fashion system. The textile  industry uses large quantities of water, chemicals and  energy, as well as generating waste, effluents and  pollution. Two third of the environmental impact of  clothing is embodied in the production phase5.  

Furthermore, the textile industry uses an astounding  98 million tons of fossil fuels2 and other non renewable resources every year. These resources  include oil to produce mainly synthetic fibres such as  polyester, fertilisers to grow cotton. But also for  making toxic chemicals to dye textiles, which are the  biggest contributor to water pollution. The textile  industry causes 20% of industrial water pollution.  Factories release these chemicals into rivers in  developing countries; polluting the water that the  locals drink, bade in and wash their clothes.  

Synthetic materials like the popular material polyester  or nylon leach chemicals (microplastics) into the  earth, and if they’re incinerated, they form  carcinogenic fumes. Aside from the production phase,  

a lot of chemicals are used to wash textile. By washing  for example polyester clothes, a half-billion ton of  microfibres are ejected into the water, which is  equivalent to more than 50 million plastic bottles!

Levi Strauss & Co was one of the first brands in 2007 to  conduct a life cycle assessment study, revealing the  impact of a pair of jeans during its entire life cycle; from  the farm to the end of product life with the customer.  Their findings showed that one pair of jeans consumes  almost 4000 litres of water and emits 33 kg of CO26.

The impact of the textile industry on our  society

The textile industry affects not only the environment but  also the people that work in this industry. Most of our  clothes are produced in countries where the working  conditions are poor. Developing countries are competing  to produce for multinational brands by offering the  lowest costs and the fastest and most flexible  production. In these countries, most people have no  choice but to work for any salary, in any working  condition. The European Parliament uses the term  “modern slavery” for this.  


Liters of water  

consumed by 1 pair  of jeans emitting  

33kg of CO2 

There are fashion brands that assure their clothes are  made by workers paid with “at least the minimum legal  wage”. This sounds reasonable, but in most  manufacturing countries (like India, Bangladesh or China)  the minimum wage represents only between a half to a  fifth of the living wage. In addition to the poor salary, the  working conditions are often dangerous and unhealthy.  Working without ventilation, breathing in toxic  substances, inhaling fibre dust while working in unsafe  buildings are not uncommon. Accidents, fires, injuries,  and disease are very frequent occurrences on textile  production sites.  

On top of that, clothing workers regularly face mental and  physical abuse. In some cases, when they fail to meet  their (unreachable) daily target, they are insulted, denied  breaks, or not allowed to drink water. The collapse of the  Rana Plaza in 2013, killing 1134 garment workers in  Dhaka, Bangladesh, has revealed the unacceptable  dangerous working conditions of the whole fashion  industry to the world.

With the textile industry being low-skilled labour  intensive, many children are forced to work in this  industry. For example in South India, where thousands  of girls are sent far away by their families to work at a  textile factory for multiple years in exchange for a  minimum wage. These girls are often overworked and  live in appalling conditions.

Historically the textile industry, and especially the  apparel industry has been one of the most female dominated industries in the world. The industry holds  great power and potential to impact the lives of millions  of women in low-income countries and, by extension,  their families and communities. Companies can, and  do, take individual action to promote women’s  empowerment within their value chains, that can create  lasting, meaningful improvements in the lives of  garment workers.

14 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 15

Chapter 3


is needed -  the infinite  

solutions and  opportunities  of a circular  textile  

industry What is a circular textile industry?  

Rigorous changes need to be made to transform the  

linear textile industry into a circular textile value chain.  

The textile industry must phase out non-renewable  

resources and move toward renewable, regenerative  

inputs. The main principles of circular textiles are  

based on circular economy and sustainable  


The Ellen Macarthur Foundation, one of the best-known  

global thought leaders on circular economy, defines  

circular fashion as:

“Clothes, shoes or accessories  that are designed, sourced,  produced and provided with  the intention to be used and  circulate responsibly and  effectively in society for as  long as possible in their most  valuable form and hereafter  return safely to the biosphere  when no longer of human use  or to the technosphere when  recycled.”

 The Ellen Macarthur Foundation7

18 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 19

When implementing circular economy principles into  the value chain of textile production, circular textiles  and clothing essentially have 4 typical features:

1. Reuse textiles

2. Repair or upgrade textiles

3. Collect and remanufacture textiles  

4. All textiles are recyclable  

Europe and a circular textile value chain

Europe is after China the biggest exporter of textiles.  The Europe Union considers the textile industry as one  of the seven priority sectors to reduce its waste by 50  per cent by 2030. As part of the Circular Economy  Action plan, the EU will launch a Strategy for Textiles in  2021 to strengthen competitiveness and innovation in  the sector and boost the EU market for textile reuse.

Netherlands: a Circular economy in 2050

The Netherlands has set the goal to have a circular  economy by 2050. Exactly how this will be achieved is  set out in the government-wide programme, the  transition agendas and the Implementation  Programme. One of the priority topics in the transition  agenda is circular textiles. The government has  launched a policy programme which aims to use at  least 30% recycled material in new clothing by 2030  and have halved the environemental footprint of the  textile sector by 2035. In July 2016, the Dutch  Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile was  concluded for this purpose, between the government,  industrial organisations, trade unions and  nongovernmental organisations.

What is the difference between circular  economy & sustainability?  

Sustainability is often associated with  departing from the linear status quo and trying  to do things in a better and more efficient way  and ‘fixing’ the flaws in the current system.

Circularity suggests departing from the idea  of wanting to do things well from the start  throughout the entire value chain. It really  implies a system change while sustainability  efforts are often focused on optimizing the  status quo.

Iconproject: Collaboration on circular textile  The Dutch Circular Textile Valley has brought together  a broad coalition of brands, retailers, manufacturers,  their associations, knowledge institutes and  government bodies that collaborate on moving to a  more circular clothing and textiles value chain in the  Netherlands. Four networks in different provinces with  both history and future prospects for textiles, focus on  a different sub-area of the circular textile issue. Among  others Twente, Tilburg, Arnhem and Amsterdam, each  with their distinctive focus, respectively: high-quality  recycling, corporate clothing, design and business.

20 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 21

Chapter 4

Principles to  become part  of the circular  economy  

The essential first step: circular design

In the linear textile industry, many products are  deliberately designed to “fail” and/or to “be outdated”.  The “designed to fail” method artificially limits the  technical lifespan of products, while the “Designed to  be out of fashion” strategy is more psychological than  rational in nature. Companies respond to unconscious  emotions of customers, thereby creating new  (redundant) needs and desires.  

For a product to be produced in a circular way, it needs  to be designed accordingly. On average 80% of a  products’ environmental impact is determined at the  design stage. This implies that textile and fashion  designers should shift their focus from the aesthetics  and the end-price to the user-needs, the function and  the end-of-life of the product in mind.

Digital design

More and more, our clothes are designed digitally. 3D  design software allows fashion designers to work in a  more streamlined and sustainable way. The traditional  

sampling process can be done digitally, reducing waste  and CO2. One example of a company that takes digital  design a step further is the Amsterdam based company  the Fabricant. The company uses visual effects such as  motion capture, 3D software and body scanning to  create hyper-realistic animations of garments without  ever having to touch them physically. The Fabricant  collaborates with brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and  Puma. They not only design garments digitally but also  animate marketing campaigns that replace traditional  

photoshoots. The digitalisation of fashion also creates  opportunities for “fashion-on-demand”, preventing  overstock and allows personification.

Circular design principles

1. Design with a purpose

 What is the function of the product? Does it  satisfy the customers needs?

2. Design for longevity

 Design in a way that the product lasts, is  considered timeless and of high quality.  3. Design for resource efficiency

 Apply materials in the design that are  

renewable, produced in a sustainable and fair  way, with minimum (fossil) energy.

4. Design for biodegradability

 Design garments with materials that are  biodegradable or compostable within a  

reasonable timeframe.  

5. Design for recyclability

 Apply textile waste in new designs, but also  consider the disassembly of the products so  that it can easily be recycled.  

One great example of the “Design for  

recyclability” is the Futurecraft.Loop running  shoe by Adidas. This shoe is made out of one  material (TPU) that is 100% recyclable. When the  shoe is at its end-of-life, the shoe can be  returned to Adidas and will be washed, grinded  and remade into a new one.


The circular production of textiles

The production of a garment emits a lot of CO2. This is  mainly due to outdated production techniques that  waste energy. If the entire fashion world would switch  tomorrow to the latest production techniques fueled  by renewable energy, it would save one billion tons of  greenhouse gases per year. Additionally, by keeping  overstock to a minimum, more than 150 million tons of  CO2 can be saved.

The textile fibre

The production of fabric starts with the fibre. A fibre is  like a small short piece of “hair”. A filament is a long  strand of a single substance. Fibres are made from  either natural resources or chemicals. According to  Lenzing (a large EU producer of textile fibres), almost  two-third of all the textile fibres globally produced are  derived from petrochemicals. A quarter is dominated  by cotton; a water-intensive crop that requires  intensive use of pesticides.  

It is clear that increased textile reuse and recycling  could reduce the production of virgin textile fibres and  therefore limit its environmental impact. Alternatively,  one could look at waste products from other sectors,  or produce fibres from renewable resources. Examples  include applying recycled PET or fishing nets as  alternatives to virgin petrochemical fibres or use food  waste such as the peels from bananas or oranges to  produce Fruitleather by the Rotterdam based company  Fruitleather. It is even possible to 3D grow a  biodegradable dress from mushroom roots!

MycoTEX – 3D produced sustainable  

textiles from mushrooms roots.

MycoTEX creates sustainable fabric from  mycelium, also known as “mushroom roots”.  Combined with 3D technology, MycoTEX creates  seamless custom-fit garments for any body, shape  and style without the need to cut and sew. The  company has no textile waste during the  production phase and only grow the mycelium  they need. Once worn out, the garment can be  buried in the ground to decompose naturally. The possibilities of MycoTEX are endless and yet  to be discovered. MycoTEX has participated in the  Fashion For Good program and won several  grants, honours and awards, with the Global  Change Award (2018) being the highlight.

Dissolvable yarn – applied in the workwear of  Groenendijk.

Groenendijk found a way to overcome their  biggest challenge in recycling: the disassembly of  double stitched fabrics, zippers or buttons. They  therefore decided to apply the Wear2 yarn  developed by C-Tech innovation in their workwear.  This yarn loses its strength when it comes in  contact with microwaves. This technology allows  the company to more easily disassemble their  garments, ready for the next step in recycling.

Yarn production.

Textile yarn is a strand of natural or synthetic fibres or  filaments. In textile yarn, individual fibres or filaments  are wound together to make threads. The process of  making yarn is called spinning. Yarn can be spun by  machine or by hand. Energy consumption, spinning  waste, spindle oil and dust are the major factors for  environmental concern of the spinning process.

Weaving or knitting

Weaving is an important step in the manufacturing  process, as weaving is what holds the fabric together.  The process of weaving entails the interlacing of  threads vertically and horizontally at the right angles  to generate a textile. By changing the way of weaving  threads, various textile/fabric appearances are  created.  

After the process of spinning is carried out, the yarns  are distinguished in two forms, i.e. weft yarn and warp  yarn. Different treatments of weaving are provided to  both of these yarns. Then the weaving cycle starts,  that includes shedding, picking, beating up, left off  and take up.  

Enschede textielstad – bring back life into a  former textile producing city.

Annemieke Koster started her own weaving mill in  Enschede, approximately 5 years ago, without  having any experience in that field. The city  Enschede used to have a thriving textile industry.  At its peak, Enschede was one of the most  important textile cities in the world, employing  over 50 thousand people.

Besides bringing back the textile industry to  Enschede, Koster also wants to retain knowledge  by setting up master-apprentice trajectories. With  the old looms brought back to life, she and her  team weave sustainable fabrics, made from  recycled yarn and sustainable natural yarn. Enschede textielstad collaborates with a large  variety of brands, companies and stakeholders on  various circular initiatives. The company supplies  amongst others it’s textiles to Dutch Spirit, but  also collaborates with Gispen or with the textile  designer Roos Soetekouw.

26 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 27

Dyeing of fabrics

Textile wet processing involves the pre-treatment,  dyeing and finishing of the fabrics. There are many  types of dyeing, such as cross dyeing, union dyeing  

and gel dyeing. All of them have their own process. It is  estimated that over 10 thousand different dyes and  pigments are used industrially, and over 700 thousand  tons of synthetic dyes are annually produced  worldwide9.

In the textile industry, up to 200 thousand tons of  these dyes are lost to effluents every year during the dyeing and finishing operations, due to the  inefficiency of the dyeing process. Unfortunately, most  of these dyes escape conventional wastewater  treatment processes and persist in the environment as  a result of their high stability to light, temperature,  water, detergents, chemicals, soap and other  parameters such as bleach and perspiration.

Dyecoo – dye without water

DyeCoo is a Dutch company with more than 15  years of experience in CO₂ technology. DyeCoo’s  CO₂ technology is the world’s first 100%  water-free and process chemical-free textile  processing solution. No process chemicals, no  water, no wastewater and therefore no  wastewater treatment is necessary, and the CO₂  used is reclaimed from existing industrial  processes, recycling 95% of it in a closed-loop  system. DyeCoo’s textile processing solutions  are applied on an industrial scale.

The increasing impact of online retail  on packaging and transport  

In the textile industry, not only the production counts.  Especially now, with the growing e-commerce,  packaging and transport are essential in a circular chain.  Brands should consider not only the materials used but  also consider the impact of packaging and delivery. How  will items be collected and recovered at all points where  waste is generated?  

There are many applications for plastic in the fashion  industry. Plastics are used for the synthetic fibres,  buttons, hangars, garment poly bags, e-commerce  mailing bags and various filler materials. Approximately  180 billion polybags are produced every year to store,  transport and protect garments, footwear and  accessories. Less than 15% of all polybags are collected  for recycling10. Fortunately, there are many countries  that realise they need to introduce effective measures to  tackle this issue, such as a charge for plastic bags.  

A truly circular solution for polybags? In December 2019 Fashion for Good launched  The Circular Polybag Pilot which will explore a  solution that aims to reduce the use and impact  of virgin polybags in the fashion industry.  Orchestrated by Fashion for Good in partnership  with Adidas, C&A, Kering, Otto Group and PVH  Corp., with Cadel Deinking, an innovator from the  Fashion for Good Accelerator Programme, the  pilot is a first in the apparel industry to trial a  truly circular solution for polybags. Using  post-consumer polybag waste, Cadel Deinking’s  innovation facilitates the creation of high quality,  recycled content polybags; a solution that brings  us closer to creating a truly closed-loop system.

28 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 29


So far, online retail is only growing and with that the  urge to change our packaging methods. In 2019 there  was a growth of 12% in online sales11 compared to a  year earlier in the fashion industry in the Netherlands.  Due to the corona crises, many retailers had no choice  but to pivot their sales model to online quickly. The first  step towards circularity is to reduce, and take a look at  the reduction of the amount of (returned) packages. An  innovative way to do this is by the use of body  scanning, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality  (VR). These new technologies are giving consumers the  possibility to experience clothes, but also furniture  online. For example, IKEA’s Place app enables  customers to place IKEA products in their space  virtually. Other pilots and implementation examples  include Alibaba’s full VR shopping experience and eBay  Australia’s partnerships with Myer to create  personalised stores. This way, consumers will only  order the items they are sure about and that fit well,  which reduces the number of packages being sent and  returned.  

The reuse of packaging material is one of the solutions  in closing the loop. RePack is one of the main  companies in Europe, providing a reusable package. If  not being reused, the package of RePack can be  returned to the company.  

When reducing and reusing packages is not possible, it  is essential to inform consumers about the recycling  options for the package used. There is an immense  opportunity to increase the number of products being  recycled

Reusable packing solution  

One important player in the reusable delivery  packaging is the Finland-based RePack. RePack  is a reusable and returnable delivery packaging  designed with reuse in mind. It is best suited for  soft goods, which makes it perfect for the textile  industry. Some of the brands that are using RePack  are Weekday, GANNI and Zalando. The reusable  packaging is made from recycled material and  designed for at least 40 use cycles. The packaging  is adjustable and does not ship any air, saving  money and nature.

Sustainable packaging plan for Dutch textile  companies

The Netherlands Institute for Sustainable  Packages (KIVD) is one of the gateways for Dutch  organisations to get the needed information and  tools about sustainable and circular packaging.  In their ‘Industry Plan Sustainable Packaging’  stakeholders formulated several goals about  ‘reduce, reuse, resources and recycle’ of the  packaging in the Dutch textile industry.  The whole plan gives a complete overview of  the possibilities and challenges around  packaging. More about packaging possibilities  can be read in their sustainable packaging plan.

30 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 31


The 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, written  and published by the Global Fashion Agenda, Boston  Consulting Group and Sustainable Apparel Coalition,  states that the transportation of the raw materials and  final textile products throughout the supply chain only  accounts for a fraction (2 per cent) of the  

environmental impact of the textile industry. This has  largely to do with optimisation and increased  efficiency.

More and more consumers demand sustainable (last  mile) delivery. The Dutch company Brenger found a  solution in reducing the number of vehicles by smart  connecting. The company founded by Wisse Koedam  and Derk van der Have from Amsterdam connects  transport requests to vehicles with empty space that  are already heading in the same direction. This way,  transport becomes way more efficient.  

Another typical Dutch option is delivery by bike. Cargo  Bikes are becoming more common and are widely used  for last-mile delivery. is one of the  fastest-growing logistics companies in the  Netherlands and is delivering in 30 Dutch cities. Also  internationally there are a growing number of  companies that deliver by cargo bikes.

End-of-life options

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, globally,  every second around a garbage truck worth of textiles  is being thrown to the landfill. In Europe, about  15–20% of disposed textiles are collected (the rest is  landfilled or incinerated), whereof about 50% is  downcycled, and 50% is reused, mainly through  exporting to developing countries12. The challenge is  not only to collect textile waste but also to collect  “clean” textile waste that can be recycled at its  highest value.

As part of the H2020 funded project REFLOW, the  Municipality of Amsterdam13 brings together  designers, producers, textile collectors/recyclers,  policymakers and citizens to understand and  transform urban textile flows and to come up with  innovative solutions to collect clean textile waste.  

Collection & sorting

The first step in the recycling process is the collection  of textile. In the Netherlands 75 million kilos of textiles  is collected every year. There is a large challenge in  preventing people from throwing their household  waste in the textile collection container.  

Approximately 15 percent of the textile collection  containers are contaminated, compared to only  8 percent 4 years ago.  

Another challenge is to sort the textiles so it can be  properly recycled. Fibersort is a technology that is able  to automatically sort large volumes of mixed post consumer textiles by fibre type and/or colour though an  infrared scanner. Once sorted, these materials become  reliable, consistent input materials for high-value textile  to textile recyclers. Fibersort has been developed  through the collaboration of a broad range of industry  

stakeholders, such as the lead partner Circle economy,  through a 4 year EU Interreg trajectory14.

Transparency and tracking

When you purchase a t-shirt, it is often written on the  label, in which country the t-shirt has been produced.  However, the supply chain of textiles is very complex  

– one shirt could include cotton from six different  places. Tracing back supply chains to check for  exploitation or environmental impact is therefore  notoriously difficult. Corporates need to be proactive  about checking it’s suppliers on the (toxic) material  content, resource use, production history, recycling  options and the working conditions. Measurement  tools can help assess products’ content and the  negative impacts of individual actors within the  textiles industry, as well as their ongoing efforts to  transform their practices for a new textiles economy.  The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, for example, is  contributing to this with the Higg Index. This is a set of  tools that aims to help set the right standards for the  industry.  

However, the information on a garment’s label can not  always be trusted. Circle Economy15 concluded that  41% of labels on the Dutch market are inaccurate, after  assessing over 10 thousand Fibersorted garments.  This has largely to do with that many organisations do  not perceive label accuracy as a key priority. .

Fair Wear: the Brand Performance check The Brand Performance Check is a tool that Fair  Wear uses to figure out how our member brands’  business practices improve labour conditions.  Every year, Fair Wear reviews brands’ efforts by  measuring how well they have assessed, identified  and resolved issues with their suppliers.  Fair Wear tackles complex problems by  uncovering new solutions and driving step-by step improvements that create real change for  the people who work in garment factories.  Four key activities make up the Fair Wear  approach: brand performance checks, factory  audits, complaints helplines and factory training  sessions.

Textile recycler Wolkat

Wolkat is a family-owned textile recycler from  Tilburg since 1948. Wolkat is one of the few  companies in the world that controls the entire  process in house from textile waste to new end  products (fabrics). The company processes more  than 25 million kg of textiles per year.

32 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 33


According to Directive 2008/98/EC16 (European  Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2008)  recycling means any recovery operation by which  waste materials are reprocessed into products,  materials or substances whether for the original or  other purposes. It includes the reprocessing of  organic material but does not include energy recovery  and the reprocessing into materials that are to be  used as fuels or for backfilling operations. It is  estimated that currently only less than 1 per cent of all  textiles worldwide are recycled into new textile.

The textiles to be recycled is often categorised as  pre-consumer or post-consumer. Pre-consumer  textiles are off-cuts, selvedges or rejected fabrics or  yarn from the production process. Post-consumer  textile waste consists of any type of garments or  household textiles that the consumer no longer needs  because they are worn out, damaged, or have gone  out of fashion. Textile recycling refers to the  reprocessing of pre- or post-consumer textile waste  for use in new textile or non-textile products. Textile  recycling routes are typically classified as being either  mechanical or chemical. In many cases, the recycling  routes consist of a combination of the different types  of processes.

According to research by Dutch consultancy firm CE  Delft17, a potential six to seven jobs are created for  every kilo tonne of recycled textiles, making textiles  the most job-intensive recycling sector in the  Netherlands.

With mechanical recycling, the textile is shredded into  small pieces. The carding process is used to extract  the fibres, which can then be spun to make yarn for  either woven or knitted fabric. Mechanical recycling is  used best for the mono-fibre fabric of cotton and  rarely viscose due to the fibre structure and higher  fibre yield.

Chemical recycling18 is a series of chemical processes  to convert high molecular weight polymers into low  molecular weight substances. In contrast to  mechanical recycling, the output products of chemical  recycling are most often the same in quality as their  virgin counterparts, with no loss in physical properties  through the recycling process. However, in most  cases, chemical recycling requires a lot of energy and  hazardous chemicals.  

SaXcell, an abbreviation of Saxion cellulose, is a  regenerated virgin textile fibre made from  chemical recycled domestic cotton waste.  SaXcell has set up a pilot programme in a new  production facility to create high-grade textile  out of used textile. With a production output of  100 kilos of fibre pulp per day, this marks the first  time that this process is utilised on a large scale.  What makes the SaXcell fibre unique is the fact  that it’s quality is better than that of the input  material, i.e.the cotton fibre.  

Loop-a-Life 100% circular and local

Loop-a-life collects textile waste and turns this  through their (local) closed-loop system into  new garments. First, the garments are sorted  into 25 different colours (partly by the Fibersort  technology). Due to the sorting in colour, no  toxic dyes, other chemicals or water are  needed. By recycling, Loop-a-life saves 5 to 10  thousand litres of water for the production of a  sweater. After sorting the textile is cut, blended  and spun into new yarn, which is then used to  make a new garment, like a recycled woollen  sweater or Cotton2cotton dress.

What makes Loop-a-life sets apart, is that they  not only have a local closed-loop system, they  also avoid overstock by allowing their  customers to “reserve” a sweater through a  crowdfunding campaign. The money is then  invested in textile and recycling innovation.


Re:newcell’s technology transforms high cellulosic waste  (like cotton and other natural fibres) into pure, natural  dissolving pulp. It can then be turned into a textile fibre, fed  into the textile production cycle to meet industry  specifications. It is an efficient process that reuses  chemicals. Re:newcell has a running plant in Kristinehamn,  Sweden.

The Kristinehamn plant produces 7 thousand tons of  biodegradable Re:newcell pulp per year and runs on  renewable energy. This allows Re:newcell to get the  experience that will allow the design of full-scale plants,  

each meant to produce approximately 30, thousand tons of  re:newcell pulp per year.

If one kilo of clothing is recycled instead of being produced  from virgin sources, it saves thousands of litres of water  and decreases emissions of both CO2 and chemicals.

The recycled cotton textile by Re:newcell is applied by the  H&M group in the 2020 Conscious Exclusive collection.

34 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 35

Chapter 5

Circular  business  models

Textile companies do not only face environmental and  

social challenges. They also need to cope with the  

increasing competitive pressure and digitalisation,  

while making a profit and keep satisfying the needs of  

their customers. Many existing business models are  

based on the assumption that there is an infinite  

supply of non-financial resources, such as natural,  

human and social capital. Nowadays, more companies  

become aware that they should change their current  

practices and embrace a circular value chain. For  

many companies, business model innovation is the  

solution to meet customer needs within the planetary  

limits, while making a profit. By means of a circular  

business model, a company can create value by  

utilising both the economic as well as the resource  

value retained in products after use, as input for the  

production of new offerings.

One promising example of a circular business model is  the Product-as-a-Service (PaaS) business model;  instead of traditional sales, companies deliver the  value of the product through integration of products  and services offerings. With different forms of  services, such as renting, sharing, leasing,  subscriptions or pay-per-use, the consumer benefits  from the product, without having to own it. Circular  business models often come with additional  opportunities, such as an intensified customer  engagement or the opportunity to collect data on  usage habits.

There are several business accelerators and projects  that aim to support start-ups in driving innovation. The  accelerator programme by Fashion for Good allows  10-15 fashion start-ups each year to join their intensive  global programme, designed to drive innovation in  sustainability, circularity and transparency in the  textile and apparel industry. Switching Gear is an  example of a project, led by Circle Economy and  supported by the C&A Foundation, that aims to guide 4  apparel brands on a circular innovation process to help  them design and launch rental and re-commerce  business model pilots by 2021.  

Manufactured-to-order fashion

Fashion companies face the constant challenge of  having to estimate many months in advance how  many and which garments to produce before they  are available for consumers to purchase. This  speculative nature of the supply chain has led to  rampant overproduction and waste, further  compounded in the last decade by the fast-fashion  phenomenon. One solution is to let customers  pre-order a garment before starting the production.  Once the minimum number of items is reached, the  production process can be started.

One example of a company that has successfully  adjusted its business model to a made-to-order  concept is the London based brand Paynter. The  

company designs and produces limited edition  jackets in 4 to 5 batches a year. The customers have  to pre-order the jacket, which tends to sell out  within minutes.  

Paynter’s disruptive business model is niche and  couldn’t (for now) be applied to the large majority of  fashion companies. It will make production  scheduling incredibly challenging. However, the  brand is tapping into something the industry has  been showing an increasing appetite for in recent  years and has become a frontrunner in what many  believe is the future: demand-driven manufacturing.

38 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 39

Tailor-made & “slow fashion”

A few decades ago our garments were locally sourced  and produced. People would only buy durable clothing  that could serve them for a long time. The slow fashion  movement encourages to buy less and invest in higher  

quality garments produced in a sustainable way.  The movement also emphasises the art of tailoring,  clothes making and celebrates the skills of the  craftspeople who make them.

Tailor made bra - Arí van Twillert

The Dutch designer Lidewij van Twillert developed  specialised technology and software that combines  3D printing with traditional sewing to make the  ultimate bra that fits so perfectly that it is accurate  to 0.1 mm. With a 3D personal scan, it takes 20,000  measurements of the body to determine exactly how  each element of the bra should be applied.

The end of ownership  

With a subscription and/or rental business model, the  company maintains the ownership of the product and  sells “the use of it”. However, renting a garment is not  something new. For decades we have been renting and  

sharing clothes, in particular for special occasions.  Nowadays, rental is transforming from an outdated to a  modern way of consuming fashion. This innovative  business model is part of the “sharing economy” and  gives clothing a longer shelf life, and at the same time,  also reduces material use and carbon emissions. This  market is driven by fashion tech companies with  expertise in reverse logistics and inventory  management.

Support on accelerating circular business models The global fashion rental market is expected to double  in value from 0.9 (2017) to 1.9 billion dollars by 2023.  One of the leading companies in this market is the  American company Rent-the-Runway19, valued at 1  billion dollars in 2019. Rent-the-Runway is a (mostly  online) service that allows women to rent rather than  buy high-end clothing. According to Jennifer Hyman20,  co-founder of Rent-the-Runway, industry leaders keep  underestimating the fashion rental market. She  believes the company can grow to a 100 billion dollar  company and become the “Amazon Prime” of rental.  

In China, within the last 5 years, there has been a huge  uptake of clothing rental services and libraries21. For  example MSParis22, the first Chinese fashion rental  platform with over 7 million subscribers. Another  example is Y-Closet23 which is more focused on the  higher-segment. At Y-Closet customers first rent  clothes through a subscription model and then have the  option to try and purchase the item. The company has  so far raised over 80 million dollar in funding, through  multiple rounds from amongst others the Alibaba  group.

Despite the huge potential, there are currently only a  handful of European fashion companies that have  adopted a rental, leasing or subscription model. Finding  out the right rental-business models and reverse  logistic system that suits the product, customer, and  the location isn’t easy. Lizee24, based in Paris, offers  fashion brands the validation of different circular  business models and support in the piloting of different  forms of rental/subscription models by their 9 months  program.

Collaboration - the Switching gear project

The Switching Gear project aims to accelerate  re-commerce and rental business models and  contribute to the apparel industry shift towards  circular consumption models. The project led by  Circle Economy guides 4 apparel brands on a circular  innovation process to help them design and launch  rental and recommence business model pilots by  2021. textiles/switching-gear

LENA- the first fashion library in the Netherlands.  LENA was founded five years ago by 3 sisters  and a friend in Amsterdam. The company offers a  “clothing library”; a system to borrow clothes  and provide an extended wardrobe for every  occasion. One item serves many different people  and it gets actually used, instead of being  

forgotten in one person’s wardrobe. LENA  believes in a circular approach, which promotes  access over ownership and fights using up all our  resources and producing textile waste.  

By means of their Sharing business model, LENA  has managed to save around 35.000 pieces of  clothing since the start. This translates into  about 5500 Olympic swimming pools of water  and the CO2 emissions of 65 two-week-holidays  to Bali.  

Patagonia - USA

The “father” of the slow fashion movement  Patagonia, is a pioneer on high quality durable  (outdoor) clothing with organic, recycled, and  upcycled fibers. At the very heart of Patagonia’s  business is to take end to end responsibility of  the product.

Patagonia’s Worn Wear encourages consumers  to take good care of their gear, washing and  repairing as needed, and eventually recycling  once the garment can no longer be used.  The repair facility in Reno, repairs over 45,000  items per year and the company operates retail  repair stations around the world, in addition to  providing its customers with free tools for  repairing their own clothing. With every repair,  the company provides feedback to their  designers to improve future products.

Dutch Spirit - Suit as a service  

The Arnhem based company Dutch Spirit not  only designs and tailor makes sustainable and  recyclable suits, but the company also offers a  “suit as a service’. For 99-130 euro per month,  the customer receives one tailored made suit  and two tailor-made shirts per year. For two  years, Dutch Spirit remains responsible for the  alterations when needed (for example due to  weight changes or when the suit is damaged)

Mudjeans - Lease your jeans  

Mudjeans introduced their pioneering leasing  business model in 2013. Mudjeans allows you to  lease a pair of jeans for a monthly fee. When the  jeans are worn out, or if you feel like a change  after 12 months, the trousers is recycled.

40 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 41

Second hand becoming mainstream

According to the Future-of-Circular-Fashion report by  Fashion for Good, “Rental appears to be very  attractive in higher-value segments, subscription rental has consistently strong potential, while  re-commerce appears to be the most financially  attractive of the models analysed.”25.

With a re-commerce or reuse model, the company in  question implements a take-back scheme for clothes  and resells this second-hand clothing, either  themselves or through a third party. Brands  increasingly see the potential to centralise and  formalise second-hand activities to retain profits for  themselves whilst encouraging sustainable consumer  behaviour. Also, peer-to-peer platforms are gaining  popularity, which allows consumers to buy and sell  peer to peer directly. Examples of online sharing  platforms include United Wardrobe, Vinted and The  Next Closet.  

Online collaborative consumption has opened new  possibilities for sustainable consumption. The  utilisation of second-hand goods reduces the demand  for new products and mitigates premature disposal.  For every cotton t-shirt that is reused, approximately 3  kg CO2-eq is saved.

United Wardrobe app  

United Wardrobe is an online community which  makes buying and selling clothes, shoes and  accessories fun and easy. The company was  founded by 3 Dutch students in Utrecht in 2014,  and has grown into a multinational company,  operating in 4 countries. What sets United  Wardrobe apart from other “online  

marketplaces” is that the platform is focused  on fashion only and provides a safe and secured  payment system. Approximately 4 million users  have already uploaded 15 million fashion  products onto the platform.

Share your Clothes by Claudia Sträter Claudia Sträter, a Dutch womenswear clothing  brand, embraces the re-commerce concept  through their “Share your Clothes” Vintage  boutique. The company collects “pre-loved”- items from their customers and resells these in  their vintage boutique store., that is located  within a regular Claudia Sträter shop. This way,  the lifespan of the garments is extended, while  the profits go to the Claudia Sträter Foundation. share-your-clothes

Clothing swap  

A clothing swap is an (online or physical) event wherein  participants exchange their valued but no longer used  clothing for clothing they will use. Clothing swaps are  considered not only a good way to refill one’s wardrobe  but also are considered an act of environmentalism.

Designing for the sharing economy  

For designers, the sharing economy also requires  a new way of thinking. Ensuring an item is durable  enough to withstand the continual logistics of renting  and/or swapping will be imperative. Circular design  thinking could reignite the need for values such as  quality, durability and longevity and requires you to  think out of the box.  

Wear & care  

20 Percent of the environmental impact of a garment is  determined at its user phase26. The choices made on  the frequency and how to wash your clothes are a  significant sustainability consideration that is often  overlooked. Simply reducing the frequency with which  we wash a garment can significantly reduce the  amount of water and detergent needed. The type of  laundry detergent also matters because most  commercial laundry detergents use phosphorus that  contributes to water pollution, harms the quality of  water27. Approximately two-thirds of use phase energy  is estimated to be used during washing (including  heating water) and one third for tumble drying28.  

Choosing the right energy-efficient washing machine  with a long lifespan can therefore make a difference.  Companies such as Bundles29 or Homie30 allow the  customer through a subscription or pay-per-use model  to use such a washing machine at home without the  need to make a large upfront investment. Bundles and  Homie also repair the devices when needed and  encourage the manufacturers to take extended  producer responsibility.  


Most people are not aware that when they run a laundry  wash with a moderate load of synthetic clothing, they  also release on average 20 million of microfibres into the  sewage water31. These microfibres are so tiny, making it  difficult to filter them out. For that reason, microfibres  end up in the air, in house dust and the water,  furthermore entering our food chain and even into our  own body.


For consumers to take greater care of their garments  and extend their lifespan, it is unlikely to happen  without the change of consumer behaviour.  Campaigns to inform the population, education in  primary school for simple textile repairs, such as  sewing buttons back on, and the implementation of  eco-labels for textiles with a longer life-time could be  considered. A great example of such an initiative is the  Repair Cafe.

Swap clothes globally

The Global Fashion Exchange is an international  platform promoting sustainability in the fashion  industry with inspiring forums, educational  content and cultural events. Through interactive  clothing swaps, GFX empowers consumers to  take action for a better environment while they  stylishly renew their wardrobe and save hundreds  of thousands of clothes from going to the landfill.  Sofar GFX has given new life to over 500  thousand kilos of clothing from going to landfills  through over 40 events held on 5 continents.  Soon GFX will launch “the swap chain”, a new  digital fashion swapping community. The  platform will use Blockchain to decentralise the  control of the platform and give the users the  freedom to upload and swap clothing at their  ease.

Repairing is caring - Repair Cafe

In 2009 Martine Postma came up with the idea  to start a Repair Cafe: a place where people can  go to repair their broken stuff, with the help of  volunteers. There are over 1800 Repair cafes in  more than 35 countries worldwide. According  to the Repair Cafe Foundation, over 1 million  items have been successfully repaired through  the Repair cafe sofar. Trousers, jackets and  sewing machines are among the top 10 most  brought items.

Currently, many people have very little  knowledge about how to repair broken items;  For that, the Repair Cafe developed an online  repair monitor. Repair data is collected and  shared through the central database, which  allows repairers to learn from each other’s  experiences.

Washing your clothes the eco-friendly way: Seepje

Seepje is known for their Sapindus mukorossi  peels, a fruit which grows in abundance in trees  in India and Nepal. When these shells get in  contact with water, they create a natural form of  soap that makes your clothes wonderfully clean  and soft.  

Jasper Gabriëlse and Melvin Loggies, the two  Dutch founders of Seepje, discovered the peels 7  years ago. By coincidence, they saw a Nepalese  woman on the television who was washing her  clothes with the Sapindus mukorossi peels. In  the meantime, the company has a huge success,  selling over 650 thousand products each year,  consisting of 15 types of washing detergent and  household soap, all made from at least 99 per  cent natural ingredients.

42 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 43














Chapter 6

The need for  


and social  


Modern slavery  


























transfer pollen from one plant to another or help with  

Creating awareness  

Today, there is an increased awareness that we,  especially in western culture and society, have lost  connection with the fashion’s materiality. Most of us  have lost touch with how clothing is made, and where  the textiles, yarns and fibres come from.

A great challenge lies ahead to make people aware  that a change in the textile industry is needed. People  should use their “consumers” voice to move the textile  industry in the right direction. Documentaries like The  True Cost, River Blue and The Next Black, but also the  Dutch Sustainable Fashion week offers us wake-up  calls. More and more consumers expect brands to be  concerned about environmental, social and ethical  issues and have a positive contribution and impact.  Research by the Boston Consulting Group32 shows  that even though 75% of the surveyed customers  consider sustainability as important, for only 7%  sustainability is the key purchasing criteria.

Documentary Taking Justice, by Mumster Taking Justice shows that even a small, sustainable  and ethical brand can make a difference. Chanel  Trapman follows Janneke and Judith, founders of the  fashion brand J-LAB3L to India, in their fight for  justice in the fashion industry. Here they produce  their clothing collections in at a special production  facility mostly run by women.

Fashion for Good experience - museum about  sustainable fashion innovation

At the interactive museum of Fashion for Good in  Amsterdam, you can learn about how your clothes  are made and discover game-changing innovations  shaping the future of fashion. The museum shows  concrete ways to have a positive impact and  encourages to take action now. It allows you to  learn about new technologies and takes a closer  look at your own consumer behaviour.

Fashion Revolution: a global movement

At the interactive museum of Fashion for Good in  Amsterdam, you can learn about how your clothes  are made and discover game-changing innovations  shaping the future of fashion. The museum shows  concrete ways to have a positive impact and  encourages to take action now. It allows you to learn  about new technologies and takes a closer look at  your own consumer behaviour.

According to the United Nations34, over 40 million  people globally work as modern slaves. Not only in the  developing countries but also in Europe, for example in  Leicester, UK. According to British Parliament-member  Andrew Bridgen, around 10 thousand people work in  the Leicester area as ‘modern slaves’ for large online  retailers35. They work in appalling working conditions,  far below the minimum wage. According to the British  Centre for Social Justice36, it concerns at least 100  thousand people in the entire UK (both British as well  as foreign workers). Exploitation and slavery are  interwoven in the global textile and apparel supply  chains: from raw materials to manufacturing. Ending  slavery in supply chains requires global governments  and law enforcement to enforce anti-slavery laws and  making sure criminals are held to account.

Social impact

Most consumers have lost touch with the human  dimension of fashion and with the blood, sweat and  tears that goes into making clothes. Social impacts  such as worker rights, poor working conditions, long  hours, low wages etcetera are still problems of concern  in developing nations. Child labour, unfortunately,  continues to be a reality in the textile industry.  Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India and Nepal are still  accused of using child labour, while North Korea  reportedly uses forced labour. The textile industry is a  major force in the lives of some 168 million children (11  per cent of all children worldwide)37 forced to work, at  all stages of the supply chain. For example, in the  cotton industry, where children are employed to  

harvesting. Here they are exposed to pesticides and  are forced to work long hours, without protection, often  below the minimum wage.

Vanhulley: a circular business model with an  impressive social impact

The Dutch company Van Hulley is a great example  of a social enterprise with a circular business  model. The customer sends its end-of-life,  unwanted or pre-loved shirt to Van Hulley. A team  of 15 women with a distance to the labour market  sew the shirt into a boxer short, face mask or  children’s trousers. Once finished, the upcycled  item is sent back to the customer. Van Hulley  further supports their employees, by allowing  them to study for one day in the week, improve  their language (Dutch) and broaden their network.

46 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 47

Chapter 7 The future  of circular  


what needs  to be done?  

The impact of COVID-19 on circular textile industry,  by Gwen Cunningham - Lead Textiles Programme at  Circle Economy, Amsterdam

 The COVID-19 pandemic has lifted the veil on a lot of  problems in the textile industry that were already there  for a long time. It exposed the inequalities, the lack of  human rights throughout the value chain and the lack  of social security for people that work in the fashion  industry. This not only applies to the garment worker  from Bangladesh but also to the shop assistant in a  fast fashion store on the high street. Online campaigns  and petitions such as #PayUp, initiated by the NGO  Remake, encourages fast-fashion retailers such as  Primark to take responsibility and pay and take their  orders.  

From a circularity perspective, the pandemic has really  disrupted the entire supply chain, specifically the  end-use supply chain. The market for post-consumer  

Lost Stock - a solution to surplus stock With the corona pandemic shutting down the global  textile industry, brands are trying to limit their  revenue losses through the cancellation of orders  placed (which have long been processed).  Manufacturers are therefore unable to pay the  garment workers, with the result that, according to  the Workers Rights Consortium, some 50 million  garment workers are at risk. Additionally resulting  in huge overstocks at textile factories in developing  countries. The UK shopping app Mallzee created  Lost Stock as a solution to this overstock ending up  at landfill and to the many garment workers that  were left unpaid. Lost Stock is a box containing at  least 3 items of clothing that origin from surplus  stock directly from the factories. The boxes are  sold for 50% of the recommended retail price, and  one box supports a worker in Bangladesh for one  week.

48 From Linear to Circular in the Textile and Apparel Industries 49

textiles is put to a halt, because of regional and  national lock-downs. Also because of consumers that  fear of contamination linked to second-hand clothing.  The movement of used textiles globally, being  exported from the US to Africa or Asia has locked  down. It brings the problem of textile waste, much  closer to our home. We cannot ignore it anymore, we  cannot export it.  

What you see is a kind of renewed urgency and the  need for a local supply chain and local resilience. I  hope that the temporary pause that we were forced to  take with COVID-19, on an individual level, as well as  on an industrial level has really triggered us to think  about what is really necessary to survive. That may be  wishful thinking, but in a way, it is a simulation of the  resource scarcity that is sure to come if we don’t  change business as usual.  

The textiles industry needs to implement alternative  circular business models, which are built on a different  kind of value that we prescribed textiles and to see  textiles as something that is essential and not only  decorative. I hope that we are going to have a different  

Upscaling circularity - Schijvens Corporate  Fashion  

The Dutch family-owned company Schijvens  Corporate Fashion has been producing workwear  for more than 150 years. Since 2017, they have  started to take back and recycle outworn clothing  into new circular corporate wear. The recycling of  garments saves around 99% of water (compared  to growing virgin cotton), 40% CO2 and 40%  energy.

Schijvens recently dressed 100 thousand  employees of the Albert Heijn, which is the largest  supermarket chain in the Netherlands, into  Schijvens new circular corporate wear. The  employees of Kruidvat, a large drugstore chain,  will also receive new circular outfits in the near  future from Schijvens.

Sustainability is part of DNA: Schijvens Corporate  Fashion is the winner of the Circular Award  Business 2020, is rated with a high score at the  Fair Wear Foundation, is affiliated with the IMVO  textile covenant and is ISO9001 / ISO14001  certified. Schijvens Corporate Fashion proves that  circular clothing doesn’t need to remain a niche  market and can be upscaled!

relationship with textiles, in the sense of how we use,  value and care for our textiles and keep them for as  long as possible. Covid-19 made us realise we can  actually do with a lot less in our lives.  

The future of the textile industry is largely unclear. On  the one hand, you see people, who lost their income,  queuing at Primark. On the other hand, there are  reports that state that people have had a fundamental  change in thinking. Only time will tell. At least  COVID-19 opened up a discussion and made us realise  the time is there to change.

The COVID-19 pandemic opened our eyes to the fact that the  textile industry is still far from circular. It has also made us  realise that the entire textile supply chain is interconnected  and interdependent. When a retailer decides not to take  responsibility for its cancelled order, all the entities that are  participating in the supply chain are affected. People working  at the beginning of the supply chain, often from developing  countries, pay the highest price.

Fortunately, consumers increasingly demand sustainable,  ethical and circular textiles and clothes. More and more large  (fast fashion) retailers start to launch “sustainable” collections,  for instance, the Conscious collection by H&M, The JOIN LIFE  collection by Zara or the Wellness collection by Primark, often  accompanied by large marketing campaigns. It creates the  appearance that the textile industry is on the right track to a  circular future, but let’s not forget that the founder of Inditex  (which includes a.o. Zara) is one of the wealthiest persons in  the world and that in the past 15 years we consumed twice as  much clothing as before.

The textile industry will only become circular if all stakeholders  join forces. Meaning that suppliers become partners and  collaborate on a large scale throughout the entire supply chain.  Consumers need to use their voice and only purchase those  items that they truly love. Brands and producers need to take  extended producer responsibility, embrace innovation and  recover the value of textiles at its highest level possible.  Foremost, let’s make the circular shift together and upscale the  circular business models that are already out there!

Final concluding words - by Mieke Evers, main author of this brochure,  

International sustainability advisor at the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.

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2 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, (2017) 







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2020 | This brochure is a joint publication of: