Spearheaded by global sustainable fashion innovation platform Fashion for Good, the ‘Full Circle Textiles Project: Polyester’ brings together a consortium of stakeholders including brands, innovators, supply chain partners and catalytic funders.

The project is made possible by a large group of Fashion for Good partners, contributing their expertise, financial support and services. These include catalytic funder Laudes Foundation, brand partners adidas, Bestseller, C&A, PVH Corp, Target and Zalando, and affiliate partners Arvind Limited, Fabrics Division of W . Gore & Associates and Teijin Frontier, who have recently joined Fashion for Good.

To attain a clear idea of the innovations best positioned to address the challenges of
recycling polyester textiles, Fashion for Good has enlisted promising innovators in
polyester chemical recycling from around the world to participate in the project.
These include CuRe Technology, Garbo, gr3n and Perpetual who over the course of
the 18-month project will be producing chemically recycled polyester for eventual
use in fabric and garment production from post-consumer textile waste. The
innovator output will be assessed and validated by participating Fashion for Good
brand and supply chain partners.

The project aims to validate the technologies and the scaling potential; prompting
further implementation/offtake agreements to drive chemical recycling in the
industry and mobilise more funding into the technology.

Chemical recycling potential

Polyester claims 52% of the global fibre market. As the most common fibre in the world, it also represents a significant portion of the 73% of textiles that are landfilled or incinerated annually. A synthetic fibre derived from petroleum, polyester does not naturally break down in the environment, and the production of virgin fibres also perpetuates the reliance on fossil fuels, Fashion for Good explains.

Textile recycling is a crucial lever in driving the fashion industry towards closed-loop
production and reducing the environmental impact of textile waste, the organisation adds, noting tt also has the potential to eliminate the industry’s dependence on virgin raw materials.

Chemical recycling can recycle textile waste into virgin-quality output and can address a wider range of textiles types, providing huge potential to close the loop on textile waste. A relatively nascent area of innovation, textile-to-textile chemical recycling faces significant barriers to scale; including a lack of financing for new technologies, limited brand offtake, and limited and expensive output that competes with cheaper, virgin options.

Building on past successes

The Full Circle Textiles Project: Polyester builds on the framework and lessons of the Full Circle Textiles Project, launched in September 2020, which focused on investigating economically viable and scalable solutions for cellulosic chemical recycling and to produce new man-made cellulosic fibres and eventual garments from cotton and cotton-blend textile waste. Having successfully accomplished this objective, the Full Circle Textiles Project further validates the benefit of the consortium structure in scaling disruptive innovation in the industry, and the capability of chemical recycling to accelerate circularity.

The four selected innovators, Circ, EVRNU, Infinited Fiber Company and Renewcell, were able to validate their disruptive technologies and produce garments for brand partners PVH Corp and Kering Group to their quality specifications. The next phase of the project focuses on scaling these solutions and encourages brands, innovators and supply chain partners to collaborate in creating long-term partnerships, catalyse funding to enable scaling, and leverage industry expertise to further develop and implement these technologies.

To further support the development of the infrastructure necessary to scale textile recycling, Fashion for Good initiated the Sorting for Circularity Project and Sorting for Circularity India Project, industry-wide, pre-competitive projects that aim to create a greater link between textile sorters and textile recyclers, stimulating a recycling market for unwanted textiles.

Read more about the Full Circle Textiles Project’s outcomes and learnings here.