Sourcing and selecting circular textiles explored in latest workshop

Published: 21 September 2021

The barriers and opportunities for sourcing and selection of sustainable and circular textile materials for clothing were discussed at a recent Circular Economy Business Innovation Centre (CEBIC) workshop.

We hosted more than 20 stakeholders from small and large retailers, manufacturers, peak bodies, research institutions, consulting firms and government. The diverse group took part in this ‘deep dive into sourcing and selection of sustainable and circular textile materials’ workshop.

Defining sustainable and circular textiles materials

Monash University’s Sustainable Development Institute presented findings from their research regarding the adoption of circular economy principles and factors that may be needed to support the textiles, clothing and footwear industry.

The research covered areas such as:

  • what businesses included in their definitions of sustainability and circular economy
  • what their priority initiatives were and what opportunities they saw.

A full copy of the research report is available on the Monash website.

The sessions proposed a working definition of ‘sustainable and circular textiles materials’, based on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision for a circular economy for fashion:

“Free from hazardous substances and don’t release harmful microfibres, made from recycled inputs (preferably post-consumer) or renewable feedstocks using regenerative production, and enabling design for durability, reuse, disassembly, and eventual recycling.”

Participants suggested some considerations and ways to strengthen this definition. The conversation highlighted the diversity of views and we acknowledged that we should not be hindered by trying to find the ‘perfect’ definition.

Challenges and opportunities

The group reflected on the challenges and opportunities relevant to sourcing and selection of textile materials that had been identified in a recent CEBIC stakeholder workshop. They then identified additional barriers, challenges and actions that could address these.

Some opportunities raised during the discussions were:

  • A shared vision, targets and agreed specifications for circular textile materials to provide guidance across the industry.
  • Access to researchers and research facilities to explore, test and trial new approaches.
  • Understanding the circular textiles that are currently available and building capabilities of those involved in sourcing and selection across all types/sizes of businesses.
  • Building infrastructure to fill the current gaps in the local supply chain to enable local production of sustainable and circular materials (including local spinning and recycling infrastructure and scaling of fibre-to-fibre recycling technologies).
  • Skills gaps and lack of training could be addressed by new or expanded training courses and qualifications.
  • Financial incentives for testing, trialling, and implementing initiatives and for collaborative approaches and continuous research and development.

For more information on what was discussed, read the workshop overview (pdf, 2MB).

About CEBIC

CEBIC is committed to supporting co-ordinated action to progress a circular economy for textiles, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with industry, research organisations and the community.

You can share intel on what your organisation is doing or get in touch to arrange a meeting with our team.

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For other enquiries, email us at cebic@sustainability.vic.gov.au.