Project developers: Purchasing / Product development /Design
Partners: Suppliers / Recyclers / Spinners

Defining objectives to integrate recycled materials in my products

The product categories concerned

Context and description

In 2019, more than 97% of the raw materials used to produce clothing textiles were virgin raw materials. 2% of raw materials came from other industries (namely PET bottle recycling) and less than 1% from clothing recycling. Yet integrating recycled raw materials from end-of-life products (for example used textiles and bottles) or production waste (fibres, offcuts or other industrial waste) enables the use of non-renewable resources to be limited.

In this same logic, circular economy approaches aim to design collections in such a way as to capture the reuse potential of materials from the outset in order to work in a closed loop and recycle any waste or scraps. 

To encourage these initiatives, Refashion has put in place a system which proposes a 50% bonus on the fees per item when the product contains at least 15% of recycled fibres and / or materials from used textiles and footwear. When the product contains at least 30% of fibres and / or materials from textile and footwear production waste, a 25% bonus applies.

Integrating recycled materials in textile collections must come within a more global material policy and must occur progressively, firstly via adapted sourcing and then within an industrial cooperation logic in order to adopt a circularity dynamic.

IMPLEMENTATION

Average

Complexity of implementation

Low

Estimated economic gain

Low

Human means

1 year
2 seasons

Implementation timeframes

STAGES OF IMPLEMENTATION
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  • Assess the scope of possibilities. Study and analyse the recycled materials market (See Tool 1) which is constantly evolving: the recycled polyester and cotton markets are today quite mature but new recycled materials are emerging. Find out about existing recycling practices (stages, processes, limits, …) as well as developing innovations (See Cheat Sheet: The end-of-life of textile products and footwear). Also analyse the competition (product type, material type, communication aspects).

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  • Review all of the materials able to be replaced and list their specific uses in order to define the sourcing approach. For example, linings can be composed of 100% recycled materials with no impact on product design.

    In certain product segments, recourse to recycled materials is already standard practice. For example, swimwear, which is majoritarily composed of polyamide, can be composed of 100% recycled materials.

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  • In parallel, asking suppliers, and namely main material suppliers, about their recycled material offer can permit short-term opportunities to be more quickly targeted. In addition, get material providers and sourcing offices involved ; they may be able to scout the market at trade fairs or get quotes. Estimate target performances and volumes upstream in order to reserve quantities with suppliers in good time.

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  • Put in place a recycled materials integration strategy.Define objectives (SMART : Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Trimeframe-defined) either relating to the proportion of recycled materials in your material mix or to the progressive conversion of some of your references or product ranges (for example, reach 50% recycled polyester and / or cotton within 3 years and over the same timeframe reach 100% recycled materials in bathwear and homewear).

    Ensure that these objectives progress over time, with the development of recycled materials from used textiles and footwear for example or for the most ambitious among you, from your own end-of-life articles.

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  • Promote the initiative internally and rally teams around a project: creation of a recycled materials library, propose a portfolio to designers. Draw up comparative templates setting out the environmental gains obtained by comparing a product made from virgin materials and a product made from 100% recycled materials.

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  • Develop recourse to recycled material. Ensure the traceability of recycled material (origin, source of the deposit, pre-consumption or post-consumption, textile or non-textile) namely with the help of an environmental textile label (Global Recycled Standard and Cradle To Cradle for example) which guarantees the total traceability of recycled materials (See Tool 2).

    Check the validity of supplier certificates and all of the transaction certificates between this material supplier and your manufacturer. In the event of checks, you will be asked to provide these two elements, meaning that rigorous documentary management must be put in place.

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  • Compare the technical specificities of materials (composition, origin, type of recycling : chemical or mechanical) and the performances of your product in relation to a new product in order to keep the promise made to customers with respect to product quality. The best compromise will often be a mix between recycled materials and virgin materials.

    For brands with the ambition of proposing an entire range of permanent products in recycled materials, select and standardise the components and materials in partnership with finished product suppliers.

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  • Depending on your environmental strategy, communicate more or less visibly on your commitment to recycled materials, whilst respecting regulations on product labelling. For materials containing recycled fibres, it is preferable to only communicate on the product when it contains a significant proportion of recycled material and to adapt communication according to the recycled % contained in the product (See Tool 4) in order to ensure you are not taxed for greenwashing.

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  • Open the scope of possibilities. For materials for which replacement is low or when supplier offers do not correspond to company expectations (in terms of design, quality or traceability), it remains possible, when the quantities so permit, to develop your own recycled material with your partners.

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  • Lastly, it is also feasible to work with all of the players from the chain (collectors, recyclers, spinners) to develop a new material from used textiles and footwear, or even from the company's own end-of-life products. This requires a partnership with local collection points (or obliges you to carry out collection from customers). Once clothing is collected, sorted and selected per colour and composition, it will be shredded and reduced to fibre-state ready to be used for your new creations!

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Key indicators

- Proportion of recycled raw materials in collections

- Proportion of products integrating recycled material

- Reduction of environmental impacts associated with the use of recycled material

Watch point

The appeal of the product must not be impacted by the integration of recycled raw materials.

The traceability of recycled materials or their certification is essential to avoid slip-ups.

Before communicating on recycled materials, find out about the legal framework and get in touch with legal teams to avoid any slip-ups.

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