Representatives from the co-founding organisations of World Circular Textiles Day (WCTD), including Circle Economy (Netherlands), Worn Again Technologies (UK) and Lenzing Fibers US, joined a roundtable at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City this month to identify realistic and achievable priority milestones over the next three decades to create the foundation for a ‘Roadmap to Full Textiles Circularity’.

The roundtable, in collaboration with the United Nations Conscious Fashion and Lifestyle Network, included key stakeholders from across the circularity landscape, including textile collectors and sorters to brands/retailers, industry associations and policymakers. They all noted a lack of information and action around the social innovation potential for the circular textiles industry and requested more information on realistic and fair proposals for transformation.

Participants were brought together to vision and populate a textile circularity roadmap to 2050, identifying key milestones for transitioning from the current linear model of ‘make, use and waste’ to one which is circular, where products and materials are kept in continual circulation, and replace the use of virgin materials use, and industry workers are supported inequitable, socially just and resilient societies.

“The scale of change required to transition to a fully circular textiles industry is immense but can be broken down into bite-sized and achievable phases and delivery plans,” said Cyndi Rhoades, founder of Worn Again Technologies, co-founder WCTD. “Designing and aligning on circular strategies for implementation and action across the industry today is crucial for achieving future goals and delivering beneficial outcomes for society, economics, and the environment in equal measures. Convening these committed industry leaders to evolve collective knowledge and strengthen relationships is a crucial step in fast-tracking necessary change.”

Karla Magruder, Accelerating Circularity, added: “At Accelerating Circularity we call ourselves a ‘Do Tank’ and ask everyone we work with to provide their expertise and energy to making the textile-to-textile circular transition. It’s not enough. At WCTD 3 key systems, Product & Services, Materials and People have been put forth as essential. To enable circularity, we must align on all strategies to implement and accelerate this necessary revolution. ‘Action’, ‘change’, and ‘fast’ are descriptors we use for the textile industry. Let’s show the world we can take the required action to change fast and create a textile industry worthy of the needs of our industry and world.”

Key insights generated by some of the industry’s leading pioneers included:

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  • Technology – a clear, rationalised plan for scaling up between now and 2050 is needed, for all parts of the collecting, sorting, pre-processing, and recycling stages
  • Scope 3 – education, training, new investment, and business models are needed to transform the supply chain, including multi-stakeholder models for ownership and distribution
  • Data/Digitisation – a data-driven approach embedded as soon as possible, to enable greater understanding and efficiencies for circular flows
  • Policy – development of Government policies for micro, meso, and macro actions, that include alignment between global North and South actors

Overall, the group expressed a desire to see “turbo stakeholder collaboration” and more partnerships established, at a greater pace. They also noted a lack of information and action around the social innovation potential for textile circularity and requested more information on realistic and fair proposals for transformation.

“Witnessing leaders across the textile industry come together at the United Nations to engage in collaborative exercises and conversations on circularity, in itself, shows the urgency and need to work together to set up systems and guidelines to achieve this common goal,” said Tori Piscatelli, regional marketing manager, Lenzing Fibers. “Most notably, I remember one participant saying ‘We need to go faster. Let’s get there now’.”

The roadmap template is expected to be released in the coming months and will be used as a foundation for integrating existing industry circularity and decarbonisation commitments, as well as for setting a longer-term framework across a range of topics, including transparency, traceability, social metrics, legislation, design, circular materials, and products & services. The aim of the roadmap is to focus industry activities on aligned activities that will accelerate circularity momentum while supporting the industry in reaching its climate targets and delivering against multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals.