“Moving from a linear to a circular model may change the way in which people use things, industries produce, the society uses its limited resources and dispose of waste"

“Moving from a linear to a circular model may change the way in which people use things, industries produce, the society uses its limited resources and dispose of waste"

Closing the loop in European textile and apparel manufacturing will require collaboration, a change in mind-set, and more investment according to a recent sustainability event.

Speaking at the Euratex General Assembly in Belgium last week, president Klaus Huneke stressed the three main focus areas for the textile and clothing sector: The importance of free and fair trade between key global trading partners; sustainability, as value for society and the "new quality" for many companies; and the need to intensify market-driven research to defend Europe's position as an innovation leader.

On the second point of sustainability, and notably the circular economy, Huneke described it as "one of the biggest changes in our industrial society and, just like the digital revolution, it has the biggest potential to positively impact our society."

He added: "Moving from a linear to a circular model may change the way in which people use things, industries produce, the society uses its limited resources and dispose of waste, if any of it is left."

Around 100 delegates attended the conference last week, which looked at the opportunities and the challenges for the sector.

In a keynote speech, European Commissioner Grzegorz Radziejewski highlighted the growing number of people and organisations interested and committed to the circular economy and the real benefit of it for resource saving, societal gains such as new job creation or increased disposable income, and environmental footprint among others.

"To benefit from the enormous potential of [the] circular economy, we need to change people's, business and consumers' mind-set, which is the hardest challenge to tackle," the Commissioner said.

He underlined two essential financing elements that are key to reaching circularity goals: private capital and business engagement.

Radziejewski pointed to investment in innovation – new business models and processes rather than just technology – and collaboration in order to prosper and gain competitiveness through a circular economy in the European Union.

To finance circular projects, he highlighted the Horizon 2020 programme, whose budget for the circular economy has been raised from EUR600m (US$670.3m) to EUR800m for the 2018-2020 period, and the Investment Plan, which aims at mobilising private capital.

A number of companies, including yarn producer Hilaturas Ferre and European Spinning Group (ESG), presented their circular success stories to delegates.

Following the discussions, Euratex (European Apparel and Textile Confederation) called for collaboration to prosper and showcase the circular economy. The organisation said improving existing efforts on circularity in the supply chain needs "a clear definition of what recycling really is" in order to protect consumers from false claims. It also highlighted the need for better visibility for SMEs to create awareness and trigger new partnerships.

Euratex said it will work with policy makers and help design measures which fit, removing barriers, incentivising a demand for a circular economy and driving the transition through innovation and investment.