“Fashion can become 80% circular by 2030”- New Findings by Global Fashion Agenda

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  • New research demonstrates the opportunities to scale textile recycling technologies
  • 5-7 bn USD investment is needed by 2026 to reach 80% circularity by 2030
  • All major recycling technologies are proven to have better environmental impact

In the aftermath of COP26, Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) , the leading non-profit for industry collaboration on sustainability in fashion, and its Strategic Knowledge Partner, McKinsey & Company, have published Scaling Circularity – a new report which reveals the opportunities and investment required to scale circular fashion systems. 

The report concludes that the fashion industry could become 80% circular by 2030 if there is increased investment in existing recycling technologies and infrastructures. The findings are based on independent analysis and learnings from the Circular Fashion Partnership in Bangladesh – a cross-sectoral project to scale post-industrial recycling and capture textile value domestically in Bangladeshone of the largest garment producing countries in the world. 

In order to deliver the 2030 scenario, it is estimated that  5-7 bn USD investment is need by 2026. The shift also requires increased confidence in the business case, calling for greater transparency of the demand for recycled output and the consistent supply of traceable high-quality feedstock. 

The clothing and textile industry accounts for 4% of global CO2eq emissions, equivalent to the emissions of France, Germany and UK combined, and material production is the largest polluter within the value chain – accounting for 70% of fashion’s greehouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet currently, less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing, representing a loss of more than 100 billion USD worth of materials each year. Therefore, scaling circularity is crucial to deliver the radical emissions reduction needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree pathway and the other ambitious climate targets that were recently announced at COP26.

Scaling Circularity modelled the potential for scaling textile recycling across the full value chain in 2035 based on existing technologies. This analysis suggests current technologies have the potential to deliver 75% textile-to-textile recycling into the fashion system, and a further 5% recycled feedstock from other industries.

The analysis also indicated that major recycling technologies deliver better environmental outcomes across GHG emissions, water depletion and land use. Plus, all technologies have the potential to be more cost effective than using corresponding virgin materials if they are scaled.

Federica Marchionni, CEO, Global Fashion Agenda, said: “This research proves that the necessary recycling technologies exist, deliver huge improvements in environmental impact and that the economics work at scale.  The challenge is providing conditions for scaling. With sufficient investment, supportive policies, and by enabling pre-competitive collaborations, I am optimistic that we can create a profitable circular system and accelerate fashion’s journey to net zero. The report was made possible through the concerted and dedicated efforts of the GFA and McKinsey teams – particularly Holly Syrett, GFA’s Impact Programmes & Sustainability Director and Corinne Sawers, McKinsey’s Associate Partner.”

Putting circularity into practice in Bangladesh:

The report highlights learnings from the Circular Fashion Partnership in Bangladesh.* Since its launch in October 2020, the partnership has mapped and traced over 1000 tonnes of textile waste in Bangladesh and is expected to reach over 200 tonnes a month by the end of 2021 – a significant achievement in the context of the global pandemic. The analysis showcases the strong case for scaling this model to other markets including Vietnam, Turkey, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, claiming there is a 4.5 billion USD opportunity.

The case study also illuminates the critical actions needed to overcome the barriers to scaling systems including: formalising the informal waste management sector, providing alternatives to current use-cases for textile waste and assuring supply of quality feedstock and demand for recycling output. 

The Scaling Circularity findings were explored further in an online event on 22th November. Speakers include Mr. Faiyaz Murshid Kazi, Director General (West Europe & European Union), Ministry of Foreign Affairs | Mumit Hasan, Head of Operations, Bangladesh, Reverse Resources | Jasmin Malik Chua, Sourcing and Labor Editor, Sourcing Journal | Peder Michael Pruzan-Jorgensen, Interim Chief Impact Officer, Global Fashion Agenda | Irene Maffini, Sustainable Investment Expert | Martin Stenfors, COO, Renewcell | Corinne Sawers, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company and more.

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