“We need to categorize the CLEAN RECYCLING apart from the DIRTY-RECYCLING, as the Textile Recycling is complex compared to Plastic recycling”- Mr Chang

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Sustainability is the ultimate priority in Textile and Apparel Industry. Recycling helps to fuel this agenda of sustainability. Undoubtedly the Textile Recycling industry is doing great. Even though there are some technical drawback inside this recycling journey. Experts from different corner of the world are trying their best to make this recycling industry much more technically effective.

Mr. Sae Chang, from Canada, Cofounder of Clean Recycling Initiative and CEO of HEAT-MX, is such an expert in recycling industry. Our Coordinator Mr Pranta Biswas recently talked to him and figured out some crucial issue regarding this recycling world. Read the full interview below to know more…

Tell me Something about yourself and professional background in this Textile Recycling area.

Sae Chang: I manage HEAT-MX™ WORLDWIDE, based in Montreal, Canada and we specialize in thermal insulation products and technologies.  In addition, I manage a non-profit organization, also based in Montreal, Canada, called CLEAN  RECYCLING INITIATIVE™.  From my educational background of Textile Engineering and decades of professional experiences in the industry, I have always understood the degree of negative environmental impacts our industry creates around the globe and have long desired to develop a truly sustainable technology platform everyone in our industry can utilize without any financial burden. Furthermore, it has always been the philosophy and backbone of the engineering approaches of my HEAT-MX™ organization to put the environmental impacts of our products and technologies as the highest priority.  With this background and our persistent efforts, we have been able to develop the most sustainable technology platform in the global textile industry, called CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ and I decided to donate it to the non-profit organization under the same name.  I could not be more pleased and honored that the prestigious ISPO TEXTREND based in Germany recognized our efforts not only for the truly sustainable technologies but also the breakthrough and industry-leading performances as thermal insulation material with the TOP OF INNOVATION AWARDS for the technology platforms used in all our product categories.  So in short, I am proud and confident to say that the products we have created is the embodiment of a true sense of “PERFORMANCE meets SUSTAINABILITY”!

Could you please brief about Clean Recycling Initiative?

Sae Chang: Firstly, I would like to categorize the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ apart from the Dirty-recycling which is currently done in most recycling processes around the globe. As most people may not be aware, the way the recycling is currently done creates so many negative impacts environmentally, hence, the “Dirty” recycling.  For example, it creates a lot of microplastics from crushing and grinding processes on waste plastics. In addition, it puts the recycled fibers into a series of processes where enormous quantity of toxic chemicals are applied, e.g., bleaching, dyeing, etc.   Furthermore, transporting plastic waste across the international oceans, i.e., between the regions of consumption and manufacturing facilities of recycling, creates a lot of unnecessary carbon footprints.  When you consider all of these negative impacts from the conventional ways of recycling, I am personally not convinced that there is even a net benefit for doing the recycling in the way it is done today.

Secondly, there have been a lot of efforts on recycling plastics while textile waste has been essentially ignored and most unfortunately, the harmful impacts from the later have been significantly underestimated.  In fact, there has been a big misunderstanding from the public, that the textile waste people put in their local recycling bins or donate into other collection facilities gets reused in the means of upcycling or recycling.  However, it is not the case in most cases.  Some experts even say that a mere 1% of household textile waste gets reused and the rest either goes into a landfill or gets incinerated. Sadly, even most of the burying and incinerations are done in far-away 3rd world countries creating enormously unnecessary carbon footprints. If you think about it, both the air and water in the form of ground water, surface water, ocean water, etc., flow freely and affect us no matter where we live.  So, it makes no sense at all that a very large quantity of textile waste gets shipped to far-away countries and gets burnt or buried there.  Another important perspective, as I briefly mentioned earlier, is that textile waste contains harmful chemicals such as dyes, etc., whereas most plastics do not.  Therefore, textile waste creates much more harmful impact on the environment than plastics.  If we consider all these factors, it is my firm belief that more efforts must be given to the textile waste than plastics.  But unfortunately, it is rare to find good textile recycling programs which really work for the benefit of the environment.

With the realization of the above situation, we made a focused effort to develop the CLEAN RECYCLING INITATIVE™ technology platform in the course of developing the products and technologies for my For-Profit business, HEAT-MX™, then donated it to the non-profit organization.  The program offers three levels, i.e., LEVEL 1, 2 & 3, depending on where the waste is created.  As for the LEVEL 1, it applies to the household waste.  There are more than 1 trillion pieces of textile goods concurrently used around the globe as of today and it will be eventually discarded.  Needless to say, we must do something about it to avoid further damage on the environment from the textile waste and this LEVEL 1 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ is designed to offer a solution for this enormous quantity of the household waste from all corners of the world.  As for the LEVEL 2, it applies to the cut-and-sew factories of all textile goods such as apparel, home textiles, outdoor goods, etc.  In general, a cut-and-sew factory can create anywhere between 5 ~ 20% of waste from the pattern-cutting processes.  With the LEVEL 2 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™, this waste will be collected and put through a process which does not create any negative environmental impact. e.g., microplastic contamination, use of toxic chemicals, etc.  Then, the material will be converted into a intermediary textile material which does not require dyeing, i.e., no need for chemical use.  In addition, it will enable the permanent looping of recycling because the fibers reclaimed in the process does not loose any strength unlike the fibers in the way recycling is done in a conventional method.  As for the LEVEL 3, it applies to several manufacturing-specific-processes for particular types of intermediary material, e.g., thermal insulation material, etc.  The waste which is a part of the manufacturing process under conventional manufacturing processes gets brought back to the beginning of the process and reused under the LEVEL 3, a.k.a., No-Waste Manufacturing Process.  There had been many technical issues in order to achieve this type of No-Waste Manufacturing Process from these specific manufacturing processes, but the innovative engineering approaches we took helped us achieve the LEVEL 3.  As a result, the waste reused by the LEVEL 3 process does not even need to leave the manufacturing facility for recycling, eliminating even a single trace of carbon footprint, not to mention no need for chemical use, nor creating microplastic contamination.

In a short summary, the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ provides technical solutions, covering all sources of textile waste, i.e., LEVEL 1 for the household waste, LEVEL 2 for the manufacturing waste from cut-and-sew factories and LEVEL 3 for the waste from several different manufacturing-specific-processes.

How does this membership process work for Clean Recycling Initiative?

Sae Chang: We offer two different membership categories, i.e., one for the general public, i.e., INDIVIDUAL MEMBERSHIP, and the other for the organizations in the textile industry, i.e., CORPORATE MEMBERSHIP.  As for the individual membership, anyone and everyone can join in for free through our website, www.cleanrecyclinginitaitive.com, where people will go through three question-and-answer-sessions, then enter their names, cities and countries of their residence for the membership.  This membership is designed to show the support from single individuals who care about the environment.  In addition, it will help us identify the priorities of our strategic implementation locations of the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ program around the globe.  Furthermore, the members will be able to purchase the labels for the LEVEL 1, which will allow us to identify the recyclable contents and sort them from the waste they create, only with the cost of stamps for mail – please look out for the information on our website for the implementation timing of the LEVEL 1.  In the meantime, LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 3 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE relate to the CORPORATE MEMBERSHIP and can be implemented immediately.  The program is designed in such way that the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ organization works with the brands,  manufacturers of textile goods and potentially regional partners of their choices to implement it.  A small membership dues will be charged to the members who will receive the guidance on the setup with the detailed methods of implementation for the technologies and processes.  The membership dues will be used for the operations of the non-profit organization as well as creating local eco system for the implementation of the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™.  One thing I would like to mention is that there are a lot of international standards or programs for different purposes, which cost a lot of money to join in.  However, we at the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ aim to make the program affordable for everyone so that this valuable technology platform can be used by everyone without any financial burden and/or by the members gaining long-term financial benefits.

How does this Initiative can work in apparel manufacturing country like Bangladesh?

Sae Chang: The LEVEL 2 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ relates specifically to the manufacturing companies, e.g., cut-and-sew factories as I mentioned earlier.  As we all know, Bangladesh has a lot of these manufacturing facilities and in my view, the country can be one of the main regions where the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ can flourish.  In the meantime, most cut-and-sew processes in all textile goods generate easily 5 ~ 20% waste from the pattern-cutting and it is either discarded at a cost or collected for a non-recyclable upcycling process.  Even if it is used for an upcycling process, it does not reduce the total quantity of waste in the end because it is eventually discarded. What the LEVEL 2 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ offers is that we buy the leftover material and put it through our CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ process.  It will then allow us to use the material in the closed loop process where the material will be reused without loosing strength nor having to use any toxic chemicals.  Furthermore, our process is based on the melting method, thus does not create microplastic contamination in our water system unlike the conventional crushing and grinding method of plastic recycling.  With this program, I am confident to say that Bangladesh can be one of the best locations where the LEVEL 2 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ can be implemented.  In addition, I envision that we can develop the manufacturing facilities which will comply with the LEVEL 3 of CLEAN RECYCLING INITAITIVE™, creating a whole new industry segment in the country based on a truly sustainable technology platform.

What is the future Plan?

Sae Chang: We have launched the 1st phase of the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ implementation, targeting 100% homogenous synthetic fiber material. As the second phase of the program, we will add similar method for synthetically blended fabrics under the same engineering principle, i.e., creating no negative environmental impact through the process.  We have pretty good technical bases for the program already for this second phase and will start it after we make a good progress in the Phase 1.  In the meantime, we continue to work on expanding this program for all corners of the world, targeting all the organizations directly or indirectly related to the textile industry, all consumers of textile goods around the globe and municipal and federal governments for their support.

Any Message to the Global Fashion Industry?   

Sae Chang: As I mentioned earlier, the textile waste is a much more serious problem than the plastics due to the toxicity of the chemicals contained in the textile goods.  We must address this issue with our utmost urgency.  All the brands and their manufacturing partners can easily benefit from the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE™ and help reduce a significant quantity of the textile waste from its manufacturing sources.  Please note that the implementation and execution of the program will be relatively very quick and swift as our non-profit organization will provide the participating organizations with all the necessary technical guidance. Although there can be a small investment depending on the aim each member has, it will be quickly recuperated and there will be a long-term financial gain for engaging into the program.  So, please work with us and make this happen!  You can contact our organization via our email, info@cleanrecyclinginitiative.com or +1 514 604 1093 for membership and/or technical inquiries.

Lastly, for those who are interested in knowing more about the CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE, please do a keyword search of CLEAN RECYCLING INITIATIVE on YOUTUBE and check out the six video modules made for the educational purposes:

Module 1:  Is RECYCLING really SUSTAINABLE?  Think again!

Module 2:  Global Pictures of Textile Waste

Module 3:  Myth Busters

Module 4:  CRI labels and how it works

Module 5:  Membership Types

Module 6:  Technology Categories

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