High-quality textile recycling and ‘circular aesthetics’ in the metropolitan region

For a few years now, textile frontrunners in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area have been working towards a great goal: 100 percent circular textiles by 2030. With a new vision they give a clear and concrete interpretation to this ambition. This was the main topic at last week's Meetup #5 Circular Textile.

We started in 2020 with round table discussions during the Monday Wash Days and now there is an ambitious vision for Circular Textiles in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area and great initiatives are underway by frontrunners bundled in a Green Deal. This vision is necessary because various sub-initiatives are achieving great successes, but we want to accelerate to reach 100 percent circular textiles by 2030. The steering committee of the Green Deal Circular Textiles has been working together with PwC on this vision in recent months, which should give more direction to the plans.

Today steering committee chair Jacqueline Cramer presents a first version of this vision. Based on the feedback it collects today and two more in-depth sessions, the steering committee will prepare a final version. It will be presented on 19 April during the Reflow event, to complete the EU project in which the Municipality of Amsterdam is participating.

Vision Circular Textile Amsterdam Metropolitan Area

The mission statement is rock solid: “The Amsterdam Metropolitan Area wants to drive a significant paradigm shift for the textile industry and achieve 100% circular textiles by 2030. We do this by encouraging collaboration, harnessing the power of regenerative aesthetics and using data. switch.”

This mission has specific goals. For example, products must be designed and manufactured in such a way that they last a long time or can be recycled endlessly. Business models ensure that products with the highest value are retained. We use post-consumer recycled content, ensure a transparent value chain and prefer to produce locally based on demand. External costs such as negative environmental impact are an integral part of the product price.

The steering group formulated two spearheads that should help to achieve the goals. The first is ‘regenerative aesthetics’. This spearhead revolves around making the new circular products and services attractive. It’s about changing the perception of fashion in both designers and end-users. Cramer: “Designers can seduce and thus inspire other designers, but users can also look at fashion in different ways. Circular textiles – and associated business models – must become attractive.”

The second spearhead is high-quality recycling’. “We have to close the cycle in the highest possible quality way”, explains Cramer. “This means that we must increase the collection and processing capacity of discarded textiles and also properly regulate the sale of both reusable and recycled fibers from non-recyclable textiles. Our ambition is to increase the volume by a factor of 200 and thus also reduce the price of recycled products and materials, which in turn is good for demand.”

The existing initiatives** will be placed under these two spearheads. Action-oriented collaboration is important to achieve the goals, says Cramer. “We have a huge challenge, so we can use your thinking and doing power.”

Circular aesthetics

In breakout rooms, the three groups discuss the vision and mission and the associated spearheads. There it appears that there is a lot of enthusiasm about the ambitious plans: the Amsterdam region can play a leading role in this transition. But there are also questions. The term ‘regenerative aesthetics’ many people find abstract or scientific. Cramer and the other attendees agreed with the alternative ‘circular aesthetics’ proposed by one of the groups. Someone also noted that he missed the search for new business models with existing companies in the plans.

For the success of the ambitions, it is crucial that the subject becomes ‘chefsache’ at large companies, the first group concluded. “Circular textiles must become the guiding principle in all decisions that will be made and all investments that will be made. There should be a boardroom behind that.”

This group focused on education. Educational projects should collaborate more with local businesses. “And furthermore, circular thinking and the preconditions for it must become a permanent part of the education programmes. Fortunately, that is already happening more and more.”

High-quality recycling

The second group notes that ‘high-quality’ from the second spearhead is an important word. Recycling is still too often downcycling, while we should try to make new yarns from post-consumer material. This requires significant upscaling and improvement of sorting. And in addition to mechanical recycling, chemical recycling** must also play a role, as group three also established. Another point of attention is clear information provision for consumers and producers.

Design was also discussed with this group. Someone tips the Circulator Guide from H&M Group that allows designers to calculate the impact of their designs. And for the first spearhead, design for recycling is not enough. We have to go for recycling for design : so already include (post consumer) recycled materials in new designs.

Workwear and mono flows

A good insight for the third group was that if the circular aesthetic is good, the second spearhead will also be fine. This group focused on work clothing, among other things, and collection and sorting remain a challenge there. Mono flows help with this, but they can also be flows of blends. You have to keep a close eye on the definition of monocurrent. Chemical recycling will have to be further developed, but especially the volume of demand for recycled fibers because chemical recycling requires large volumes.

Data also plays an important role in realizing the ambitions, adds Marten Boels, raw materials director MRA. “If we properly map out what goes into the textile bin and what we can get out of it, we have a huge accelerator. With track&trace we can provide much better insight into the quality of textiles.”

Claire Teurlings, Lead Circular Economy at the Board sees good opportunities for this. “The region has the ambition to be a frontrunner in the field of ICT and data and there are already a few great initiatives around data and textiles at Textile2Textiles and the Denim Deal, so I think it would be a good idea to join them.”

Coalition of the willing

Jacqueline Cramer is happy with the input she is getting today. “We will in any case no longer use regenerative,” she says with a laugh. “Furthermore, I agree that this should be chefsache and that we can fulfill our textile ambitions with a coalition of the willing have to work, so only with parties that really want to make a difference on these themes.” Communication is another focus. “We have to market our story well, we haven’t been doing that enough until now.”

Furthermore, the chairman of the steering committee is still looking for what we should do here in the region and what we should leave to regions such as Twente and Tilburg. Take work clothing where there are already many (circular) suppliers and producers in Tilburg. “Should we mainly focus here on procurement and tenders? We will also try to clarify that in the near future.”

So enough homework for the steering group. In the coming weeks, the group will work with the feedback and questions and there will be two more in-depth sessions. Do you want to join the coalition of the willing? Or at the very least stay informed about all activities related to the Green Deal Circular Textiles, send an email to / report to Claire Teurlings.

Textile diary

  • February 7-12: Week circular economy including: Launch of shopping route Amsterdam, Launch of AnotherLife campaign (soft launch)
  • March: launch United Repair Center
  • April 19: Community Meetup #6 – final vision, including roadmap, Final Event REFLOW (during Fashion Revolution week)

3 February 2022

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