5. Waste = Food > 5.2 Recycling > 5.2.1 Recycling Case: Coolrec
- So we receive them here, we take care of these, let’s say, hazardous materials, we suck out the cooling agents, which in the past was freon.
- We take care of the proper treatment of these materials.
- We tend more and more into the real circular economy where we not only sell the secondary raw materials but also take out specific materials for a specific customer or manufacturer.
- I’m very proud of our pilot we did and the approval we got from one of the big manufacturers of washing machines, to supply them the special material that they are only using in their equipment.
- Material is simply, let’s say, the plastic for example.
- In this case it’s a very specific material we take out.
- Parts is really, take out the part and leave it as it is, so not shredded and make small pieces, but leave it as it is and supply back.
- Because, first of all, it’s the responsibility of the manufacturer, who puts a new product on the market to take care of the recycling.
- I want to close the loop, and also the manufacturer wants to close the loop because then they take the full responsibility of putting new on the market and get that recycled in a proper way.
- Because they have, in their ambition the reuse of material in their end products.
- We started and the manufacturers are really very excited and open about it.
- I think recycling is, was 20 years different than today and it will be in ten years.
- We tend more and more into the supply of raw materials.
5. Waste = Food > 5.3 Case: Circular Textiles > 5.3.1 Circular Textiles Introduction
- We’re going to talk about the circular fashion, Circular Textiles Program that Circle Economy is running.
- The Circular Textiles Programme is a sector specific initiative within Circle Economy.
- It has the ultimate mission to accelerate the transition towards a circular textiles industry and really close the loop for fashion.
- By close the loop we mean to create a system whereby products and fabrics and fibres can be infinitely and effectively cycled within the industry, but also across other industries and whereby producers really apply, you know, business practices that support this cycling of resources.
5. Waste = Food > 5.3 Case: Circular Textiles > 5.3.2 World’s Second Most Polluting Industry
- So you talk about fashion and textiles, and we all know fashion intimately.
- Even at the very early stages when we are producing fibre, that whole production process is very water, energy and land intensive.
- When you take those numbers and you consider that, you know, population is just ballooning and also that we have this phenomenon of fast fashion; that we’re burning through textiles like never before.
- If you look at the end, textile waste, you know, 20 million tons per year for US and EU alone, being landfilled or incinerated, then you really get to this very strange dynamic whereby we’re using these resources, we’re wearing them for a short amount of time and we’re immediately throwing them out.
- So a really small amount, 20% are collected and of that they either go to reuse, if they’re good quality and they’re not torn or stained or dirty, and then the other percentage will go to recycling, which in this case means down cycling into insulation or rags, the rag industry and that’s not capturing the value of textiles, you know.
- A tiny negligible amount is going back to textiles, textile to textile recycling.
- So we really see that if you could close the loop for textiles, you would capture the embodied value of the fibre, you could eliminate textile waste downstream and you could also, you know, displace the virgin industry upstream.
5. Waste = Food > 5.3 Case: Circular Textiles > 5.3.3 Textile-to-textile Recycling
- What is the difference between the current process of downcycling and these new technologies? Can you explain this? Sure.
- Down cycling is exactly what you said; it’s a very crude, either tearing up of textiles into rags, for the rag industry, or breaking down of textiles into, kind of, a pulp that can be used to fill mattresses, blankets or for the automotive industry or made into non-woven products for insulation for example.
- High value textile to textile recycling, that kind of process will allow us to, you know, capture that fibre and bring it back in as a new yarn, a new fabric and a new product.
- When we talk about technology there’s two types of technology for textiles recycling.
- Mechanical has been, you know, on the market for quite some time now, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin, it’s, you know, again quite a physical process of shredding the material first, you know, blending it with other fibres if needs be, carding it, combing it.
- So it’s back to its fibre form, and then spinning it back into new yarns.
- You can, it kind of acts as a kidney, it can take out dye stuffs, chemical components and then you take those component parts and you build up a regenerated fibre that is virgin quality, if not better.
5. Waste = Food > 5.3 Case: Circular Textiles > 5.3.5 Barriers and Opportunities
- If you have a mass of post consumer textiles you can easily see your denim and pull it out.
- So you will get an input of a mixed bag of recyclable grade textiles and it will be programmed to detect a 100% cotton, a 100% polyester, a 100% wool, for example.
- As the textiles go through, this is detected and communicated to the machine, which blows it off at different points so you get those separate sorted streams which are then perfect for recycling.
- You know, why it’s really interesting is not only because it’s going to, yes, provide textile recyclers with really high volume, high quality, you know, controlled feedstock, which is going to increase their yield, but also, you know, increase the level and the quality of their output.
- Also for the sorters and the, you know, that side of things, it will also revolutionize their business.
- Because at the moment, the low grade textiles, all the textiles that aren’t good enough to be resold as reuse are deemed recyclable and they are, you know, they’re a bleeder for the industry, because either they’re being sold at a pittance, absolutely nothing, to the down cycling industry, or in a lot of cases, the sorter is actually paying for it to be incinerated or landfilled.
- Because we have a fast fashion industry, with really low quality clothing, that recyclable grade is getting bigger and bigger and bigger and the reuse is getting smaller and smaller and smaller, so their business model is under serious pressure.
5. Waste = Food > 5.3 Case: Circular Textiles > 5.3.6 Business Models & Fashion Design
- This is a really interesting development we’re seeing whereby brands are almost voluntarily taking on this extended producer responsibility, you know, mindset, that they feel that in mass balance they should be producing and selling as much as they’re collecting and recycling.
- So you could do that in a number of ways, you know, you could simply have in store collection, like H&M do, you could look at your, you know, your e-commerce model and how you can organise reverse logistics to get textiles back from those consumers or, as you say, you could really look at your business model at a very basic level and say ”what if we aren’t selling products anymore, but loaning or leasing?” And then the consumer is obliged to bring those textiles back, so you know, you have the example of Mud Jeans, here in Holland, who were one of the first people to do this.
- You know we, if we presume that these clothes are going to come back into the system, then why don’t we design them in the optimum way to make sure that they can go through that system really easily, really naturally? So, you know, of course you’ve got your biological and your technical loop.
- Freitag are a design company who have looked at the biological loop and said ”we’re going to make a fully biodegradable collection”, right down to the screws, you know, and the buttons that can be unscrewed and taken out before you put it in your compost heap.
5. Waste = Food > 5.4 Nature Inspired Design > 5.4.1 Nature Inspired Design: Entropy
- This was also the inspiration for a carpet tile, and it sounds silly but actually, literally, our designers were sent into nature and were told, just look how nature creates floor, flooring.
- So they picked up this concept of random design and they developed a carpet tile where no carpet tile is the same, which in production terms is really very weird.
- I can tell you that nowadays, around 40% of our turnover is of this type of carpet tiles.
- You also don’t have any, hardly any waste, because you can use any leftover piece or cutting at any puzzle place in the floor you want to.
5. Waste = Food > 5.4 Nature Inspired Design > 5.4.2 Architecture Inspired by Nature (1/2)
- So I left biology behind and went to study architecture.
- Then some years later when I started working on the Eden project I realized that actually there was a way to combine those three things, design, biology and the environment.
- What would you consider as your best project, biggest biomimicry inspired project? – Well, the Sahara Forest project is one that I’m very proud of because I jointly initiated that and we’ve now built the first version and we’ve set up a company specifically to deliver that.
- So for that we worked with quite a conventional building type and we used nearly a hundred different biological organisms to help us address some of the key functional challenges in very new and innovative ways.
- Could you maybe tell us a bit more about the Sahara Project? – Yes, so the Sahara Forest project is an idea for bringing together three main technologies.
- By taking an integrated approach to those we found that we can achieve, explore some very interesting synergies, and a lot of this is about trying to mimic ecosystem models.
- That’s why circular models and ecosystem models are so fascinating.
5. Waste = Food > 5.4 Nature Inspired Design > 5.4.3 Architecture Inspired by Nature
- What are typically the barriers that you encounter, trying to integrate these? – Well there are some technological barriers, but really the main barriers are, let’s say, certain political inertia and conventional economics.
- If we’re to think about how buildings are changed and dismantled and turned into new buildings, then that is a really important thing to think about.
- Think about the kind of materials you use and how you put them together.
- I think it’s really important to think about how you can bring activities and technologies together in symbiotic ways, so that they benefit from each other.
- I think it’s essential that we think about people and their needs.
- At a physical, but as well as an emotional and psychological level I meant that’s fundamental, really, for architects.
- You know there are certain dimensions that it can’t necessarily help with, so there are very important cultural and historical dimensions to architecture that need to be part of a really integrated approach.
5. Waste = Food > 5.4 Nature Inspired Design > 5.4.4 Case: Interface Mission Zero
- Nature is so inspirational and actually, working on sustainability with that pair of glasses on, it makes you aware of the richness and the wisdom of this 3.8 billion years of R&D. The possibilities that have arisen by applying those principles, by indeed working on dematerialization, creating for example, carpet tiles, since we are the inventor of the carpet tile with 50% less materials, which are quality wise just as good but reducing the environmental impact to 35%, or focusing on the use of recycled materials.
- Now we are working, for example, with yarn which is made of the castor bean, and it grows in India where agriculture doesn’t have a chance because it’s in areas where it’s too hot to grow some crops.
- Because of this plant actually you prevent erosion and the farmers can harvest this bean, and from this bean you can make oil and from that oil you can make yarn.
- Is there, maybe in your future vision, where you don’t need any input from raw materials? We actually aim there, to be there by 2020 and that’s going to be tough! So if there is a student out there, who has an idea to help us with finding the other 50% we are lacking at this point in time, because, average, at this point in time, 50% of all the materials we buy are already recycled and bio based, but we need another 50%. “.