Brightfiber Textiles will open the first 100% circular raw materials factory for the fashion industry in Amsterdam at the beginning of 2023. This factory will process old sweaters and clothing into high-quality fibers and yarns. This factory can produce 2.5 to 3 million kilos of textile raw materials per year. This is approximately equal to the total weight of household textiles collected in textile containers on the street in Amsterdam. The average Amsterdammer buys fifty items of clothing per year. With the arrival of this new factory, 20% of this clothing can be made from local residual flows. Ellen Mensink – founder of Brightfiber Textiles – wants to set up this circular solution to encourage fashion brands to use more of their own residual flows for subsequent collections instead of new wool, cotton and other synthetic fibres.
A big step towards circular fashion in the Netherlands
At the moment, only 1% of all collections in the Netherlands consists of recycled material. Largely industrial waste, originating from spinning mills and knitting factories. So new material. Only 25% of this recycled clothing is made from consumer waste that largely consists of PET bottles and does not come from old clothes. Five years ago, Loop.a life was the first brand in the Netherlands to start developing a completely new textile collection from local residual flows. 100% circular knitwear is made from old clothing. The Brightfiber factory will produce sustainable raw materials and yarns in the same way, but on an industrial scale.
The development of circular fashion and circular textiles is necessary. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. It is expected that the production of clothing will increase by at least 60% by 2030. The result: more pollution and even more waste. Thanks to Brightfiber’s production process, material and colors are reused. This not only saves thousands of liters of water per sweater, but also eliminates the need for chemicals and dyes during the production process. In short, this new factory is the solution to the growing dissatisfaction with the fast fashion industry.
Collaboration – partners – the first circular production chain worldwide
Bright.fiber Textiles B.V. is a spin-off of Brightloops B.V. and the Loop.a life brand. At the time, Loop.a life started with a large batch of old sweaters with manual sorting and cleaning in the Wieland Textiles sorting factory in Wormerveer. Loop.a life has since developed five circular yarns from this so-called post consumer material for its own collection. Two years ago, Wieland Textiles launched the Fibersort machine, a global innovation in which local consumer waste is automatically sorted by color and composition. Brightfiber Textiles (fiberization) is the next step in this process.
Developing new knowledge and innovating is urgently needed
Normally, local waste flows go around the world four times before they return to our clothing. Child labor is still widespread. Local production prevents this, saves transport kilometers and also creates new employment. However, recycling post-consumer material is very complex because it involves different structures, compositions and colours. Nobody really cares about this job. Certainly not the fashion industry, which sometimes launch twelve to twenty-four collections a year. That is why Bright.fiber has received part of the financing for the new factory from the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment – Circular Economy Department – to stimulate the production and use of circular textiles and fashion in the Netherlands.
“In five years we have learned a lot from Loop.a life,” says Mensink. “We purchased material ourselves and guided it through the various steps of the production chain. We know from experience which sorting flows lead to high-quality raw materials, beautiful yarns and end products. In the run-up to the new factory, Bright.fiber is engaged in a large-scale yarn development process. We do this together with European spinners, local knitters, Dutch brands, Wieland Textiles and the Province of North Holland. Our goal is to develop new yarns from the five different major residual flows in this region. The Brightfiber factory will produce the raw materials for this.” Producing closer and developing knowledge contributes to learning, innovating and jointly scaling up to larger quantities. This is urgently needed, according to Mensink. Due to all the ‘green’ marketing around sustainable, circular and recycling, consumers wrongly think that a lot is already happening in the field of circular textiles. But nothing is less true. That is now changing. Loop.a life has demonstrated that it is possible: to make beautiful clothing from local residual flows. With the arrival of the Brightfiber factory, this capacity will be scaled up and many more brands can make this possible.