June marked the start of the SCIRT project (System Circularity & Innovative Recycling of Textiles). Backed by EU funding, this project aims to find ways to tackle today’s greatest challenges in the fashion industry: clothes waste and recyclability. This innovation journey, joined by Flanders DC and others, will take three years.

The problem? Minimal recycling

While clothes brands set ambitious targets to include recycled fibres in their garment processing, discarded textiles are simply piling up worldwide. A report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation from 2017 shows that less than 1% of discarded textiles are reused to create new textile fibres.

This minuscule percentage reveals the huge gap between supply and demand. Knowledge of the technological, economic and ecological feasibility of fibre recycling is lacking on the supply side. Meanwhile, textile companies and fashion brands want high-quality and affordable recycled fibres, but remain unsatisfied.

Closing the gap

SCIRT will team up with eighteen partners from five countries to accelerate the transition to a circular fashion system. In doing so, the emphasis lies on technological innovation and generating awareness among the fashion sector and general public alike.

With support from technical partners and research institutes, Decathlon, Petit Bateau, Bel & Bo, HNST and Xandres will design six different types of clothing, turn them into prototypes and produce them using fibres recycled from discarded textile. 

SCIRT is also looking at supporting policy measures and tools. This will lead to a framework for an Extended Producer Responsibility system (EPR - call it a duty of care) and a ‘True Cost Model’ that will calculate the social and ecological impact of circularity, allowing this to be integrated in the cost price.

Consumers will be involved as well. Using a ‘Citizen Lab’, SCIRT will involve the public throughout the process. The aim is to generate more insights into what determines their behaviour when buying and discarding clothes.

The role of Flanders DC

Flanders DC’s involvement in this project lies mainly in the following three areas.

Firstly we will turn the True Cost Model into a practical and attractive online tool based on formulas and data supplied by the VITO project coordinator. 

A second point is the processing of the lessons learned by the fashion brands in designing and producing the different garments. Flanders DC will issue these via Close The Loop as a set of clear, practical design and production guidelines for use in the fashion industry.

Finally, communication of the results is key to the success of the project. Close The Loop will therefore play an important role in this so-called dissemination. In fact, the ideas are still coming. The message more than ever is this: keep a close eye on our agenda!

Who will join us on this innovation journey?

  • Fashion companies: Bel&Bo, HNST, Decathlon, Xandres, Petit Bateau 
  • Research organisations: VITO, CETI, Prospex Institute 
  • Universities: BOKU, TU Wien, ESTIA 
  • Industrie: Altex, AVS Spinning – A European Spinning Group (ESG) Company, Valvan 
  • SMEs: Circular fashion, FFact 
  • Nonprofit organisations: Flanders DC, IID-SII