Concept and approach

Background: The playing field

Currently, virtually all clothing is produced in Asia, at low cost, in bad labour conditions and with few concerns for the environmental impact. The vast majority of the clothing is made using two types of fibres; polyester (ca 64%) and cotton (ca 22%)1. Polyester is used for its strength and durability and is very cost effective (ca €1/kg). Cotton is used for its comfort properties. The current system has considerable disadvantages and shortcomings. Polyester is oil-based and sourced in the Middle East, while cotton is mostly grown in e.g.India, with a large environmental impact because of pesticides and high amounts of water used. Further, typically from polyester fibres, small fibre fractions are released from the garments, especially during the washing, but also during wear. These so-called microplastics end up and accumulate in soil and water. The textile sector is considered the secondlargest contributor, with the annual amount of primary microplastics released from textiles estimated at 190,000 mt.

Asia: Global clothing factory

The identified need.
Based on the above, reinventing the fashion value chain is needed for several reasons:

Sustainability: (i) sustainable bio-based raw materials can enable recycling and circular use, with the main aim of maintaining the materials value as long as possible and (ii) novel approaches can prevent the release of microplastics. Need: novel materials as alternatives to polyester and cotton; improved fabric and garment designs and finishing/coating/dyeing/printing; minimising waste during production and postponing real EoL; set-up of circular recycling processes.

To tune into novel trends on how we buy and use clothing: garments as a service(‘subscription models’), rental,sharing, swapping, including repair, re-use, re-purpose, recycling and upcycling(remanufacture). Need:Value chain digitalization for manufacturing, servicingand logistics.

A shared ethical vision: overcoming ‘extractive’, transport-intensive business models leading to over-production. Need: cooperation for networked local small(er) scale manufacturing with in the EU.

Further, based on business intelligence gathered by the consortium, it is clear that there is currently an unmet demand from many designers and brands for ‘bio-based’, ‘sustainable’, and ‘circular’. Very limited solutions are available and most of them will come at a higher cost, making trading such clothing a real challenge.

Proposed solution

Thus, HEREWEAR presents a novel model for the fashion industry:

  • Local availability and processing of bio-based waste, allowing the development of bio-based fibres. Several sources exist:

    • Cellulose-based:e.g.waste from land (manure and straw)and from seaweed (using what is left over after extraction of the valuable components e.g.for medical, food and feed applications). Goal: an alternative to cotton.

    • Biopolyesters: based on combination of PLA as main materials, blended with PHA (biodegradability) and/or PBS (flexibility). Goal: an alternative to polyester.

  • Textiles intermediates making (yarn, fabrics, finishing, dyeing, all with bio-based agents).

  • Digital tools for coordinating local small-scale (or ‘short run’) production (e.g. microfactory) and tracking of raw materials to ensure ‘sustainable origin’ and ‘circular use’.

  • Plug into social enterprises, local do-it-yourself initiatives for textile re-use, swapping, repair,etc.

  • A key aspect, which will be a focus in HEREWEAR, is to facilitate the collection and sorting of the textiles and setting up the most appropriate recycling routes according to application and material.

Interdisciplinary aspects:

HEREWEAR combines expertise and knowledge from several disciplines: polymer chemistry, biorefinery, bio-based raw materials, textiles value chain, recycling, design, engineering, software platforms and environmental science. This is a necessity for tackling the interdisciplinary issues linked to bio-based circular textiles.

Stakeholder involvement:

interaction with the stakeholders is deemed crucial, especially with actors from the linked sectors, e.g. textile & clothing and bio-based communities. Therefore, TCBL has been added as partner, having a network of over 240 members all dedicated to design and manufacturing of sustainable textile & clothing in the EU. We also have the HEREWEAR Impact Support Group (ISG), containing 11 members from diverse backgrounds.

Societal engagement:

HEREWEAR results will aim to create a new market of bio-based textiles, which will lead to job creation. Of special interest are repair and re-use operations; based on the micro factory concept,they can be realised in small,local workshop sand thus offer new models at a social innovation level.