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April 29, 2021

VF Corp and Inditex back new recycled polyester pledge

Adidas, VF Corporation and Inditex are among the 85 brands and suppliers that have committed to a new initiative designed to drive the uptake of recycled polyester (rPET) across the clothing industry and the associated reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs).

By Beth Wright

Adidas, VF Corporation and Inditex are among the 85 brands and suppliers that have committed to a new initiative designed to drive the uptake of recycled polyester (rPET) across the clothing industry and the associated reduction in greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge (rPET Challenge), a joint industry initiative by Textile Exchange and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, petitions the apparel industry to commit to increasing the global percentage of recycled polyester from 14% to 45% at 17.1m metric tonnes by 2025.

It asks brands to commit to the most ambitious uptake target possible, with Textile Exchange noting high percentage rPET commitments are essential for building critical mass to reach an absolute 90% recycled volume share by 2030.

Polyester (PET) is the most widely used fibre in the apparel industry, accounting for around 52% of the total volume of fibres produced globally. The apparel sector accounts for around 32m tonnes of the 57m tonnes of polyester used each year. Currently, only about 14% of this comes from recycled inputs – predominantly from post-consumer PET bottles, according to Textile Exchange’s Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report 2020.

“Recycled polyester has a significantly lower carbon footprint than conventional,” Textile Exchange says. “To stay within the 1.5-degree pathway as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we need to bring the share of mechanically recycled (or equivalent) fibre/filament within the polyester market from 14% to 90% by 2030.”

As such, by 2025, rPET or equivalent needs to comprise at least 45% of fashion’s polyester market. The 17.1mn metric tonnes of recycled fibre is intended to replace virgin synthetic feedstocks rather than cannibalise other fibre categories or justify increased industry growth.

“Today, mechanically recycled polyester from plastic water bottles makes up the vast majority of recycled polyester; however, chemical recycling, textile-to-textile recycling, and other innovative technologies will be a necessary part of reaching our goal. We recognise that more data is needed on the GHG reductions associated with other innovative synthetic alternatives and that even with less significant reductions compared to mechanical recycling, they will be a key part of a market transformation away from fossil fuels. We will continue to explore roadmap scenarios as impact data evolves and as the textile-to-textile recycling market matures.”

Companies committing to the rPET Challenge will be required to annually report their polyester consumption to Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber and Materials Benchmark (CFMB) survey, which will track progress across all participating brands towards the collective goal. Brands are required to report once per year by the CFMB deadline, but they have the option to participate in the benchmark in full or solely to report polyester volumes.

Textile Exchange will report annually on the 2025 rPET Challenge, utilising 2019 volume data as a baseline and a view to accomplishing both Textile Exchange’s and the Fashion Charter’s overall commitment to staying within the 1.5-degree pathway.

Brands that have also committed to date include Athleta, Banana Republic, G-Star Raw, H&M Group, Helly Hansen, J.Crew, Lululemon, Madewell, Nudie Jeans, Outerknown, and prAna.

“The commitment to only source recycled polyester by 2025 is an important milestone on our journey towards recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030. This will help us decrease our impact on the environment, lowering our carbon footprint and saving resources like water, energy and chemicals. The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge is a great example of taking joint responsibility for the future of the industry,” says Anna Biverstål, sustainability business expert materials and processes at H&M Group.

Katja Schreiber, senior vice president of sustainability at Adidas, adds: “For over two decades, sustainability has been an integral part of Adidas’ way of doing business. As part of our new strategy Own The Game, sustainability will play a key role. We are committed to only be using recycled polyester from 2024. This year we will launch the first running shoe that is made to be remade. By 2025, nine out of ten Adidas articles will be sustainable: made with recycled materials, made to be remade or made with nature.” 

The joint initiative continues the acceleration that began with Textile Exchange’s 2017 Recycled Polyester Commitment.

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