The production of brand-new garments has doubled in the past fourteen years, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste are created every year, and one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned globally every second.
It’s not looking good, but there is one company that is changing that: Re:newcell, who developed a recycled fabric that goes by the name Circulose.
What is Circulose and how is it made?
Circulose is a natural material made 100% from discarded textiles and it is an innovative solution to textile waste. In fact, Circulose closes the loop of fashion, which is known to be the second most polluting industry in the whole world, without compromising on style or quality.
The first step of the manufacturing process is the recollection of textile waste and worn-out clothes, which in this case are the raw material for this fabric. The company behind Circulose explains that these garments can’t be resold to people because they are either worn out or “hopelessly out of style”. So, they make sure they don’t end up in landfills, as it usually occurs.
Moreover, they clarify that they prefer cotton clothes because they contain a lot of cellulose. Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer in the world and its purest form can be found indeed in cotton.
These recycled garments are used to recover the cotton that is then manipulated to extract the (recycled) cellulose. Before that, clothes need to be shredded, de-buttoned, de-zipped, de-colored and turned into a slurry. Afterward, dyes and contaminants like plastic polyester are taken out and finally, cotton is put through a water-based chemical process to extract the cellulose.
Once the pure cellulose is taken out, it is then dried and pressed into sheets of Circulose. As you can see, the name of this fiber comes from the fact that it is indeed circular cellulose.
The sheets of Circulose are packaged into bales and then shipped to be finally transformed into natural textile fibers, once again. The fashion loop is now closed.
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Re:newcell was founded in 2012 and it is the company responsible for Circulose. Only two years after its creation, the Kristinehamn-based manufacturer (Sweden) developed the first prototype of this new material.
What sets Re:newcell apart from other textile manufacturers is that they focus on developing sustainable production processes that preserve natural resources, and reduce both carbon emissions and the use of polluting chemicals.
Moreover, traditional regenerated fibers, like Lyocell and viscose, are made by using cellulose sourced from wood. Re:newcell’s patented technology, on the contrary, sources the cellulose from recycled textile fibers.
Is Circulose sustainable?
Yes, it is. Circulose is not only sustainable because it is an alternative cellulose pulp that is made from recycled textile waste. It is also eco-friendly because its innovative production process is powered by 100% renewable energy.
In addition, this new material doesn’t involve the need for cotton fields, oils, or trees, as the company uses what is already out there to manufacture it. That is old clothes and discarded textiles.
In comparison to clothes made in a conventional way, garments made of Circulose cut their environmental impact to almost zero. That is because circulose reduces the use of water, the creation of microplastics and waste, and the deforestation fashion footprint.
If we compared viscose fibers made from wood pulp to the ones made of textile waste, we could clearly see that these last have a much lower carbon emission impact. And therefore a more positive impact on the planet.
What are Circulose applications?
So far, we have mentioned that Circulose is an incredibly sustainable material that can change the textile and fashion industry. But there is a lot more. Circulose can also be applied to other industries and products.
For example, it could be used as an alternative to plastic and therefore it could work in the manufacturing of hangers. In fact, a study made by the University of Northumbrian claimed that an estimated 954 million plastic hangers are made annually only in the UK. And most of them end up in landfills after one single use.
Re:newcell already came up with a successful prototype of a hanger made with Circulose, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if we came across an entirely new production in the near future.
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Which brands are using Circulose?
Circulose is a cutting-edge material and it is not news that brands and businesses from all around the world want to be part of this revolution. Re:newcell has collaborated with several world-leading brands, promoting a circular economy and a sustainable approach to fashion.
In 2019, the Sweden company partnered with Chinese viscose manufacturer Tangshan Sanyou, who now produces viscose fibers made 50% of Re:newcell’s Circulose pulp and 50% of FSC certified wood pulp. (FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council).
The following year, H&M became the first brand to use Circulose on a market scale, when they launched the Conscious Exclusive collection for the Spring-Summer 2020 season. The garment in question was a navy blue dress made partially with Circulose, which was made using worn jeans.
Another label that collaborated with Re:newcell is Levi’s, long known for its sustainability efforts. In July 2020, the brand launched the Levi’s® 502 ™ Taper jeans, which became the most sustainable model in the history of the label until that moment.
As well, a limited edition collection by the firm Vero Moda, called “The Beauty of Second Life”, also included a ruffled mini dress made 50% of Circulose. The other half was sourced from wool cellulose.
Of course that the essential goal in the textile and fashion industry would be that there wasn’t any waste at all. But until that is solved, Circulose fiber presents itself as a temporary and viable alternative to waste cotton.
For more on sustainable materials, take a look at AMNI Soul Eco: All You Need To Know About The Sustainable Nylon Fabric and REPREVE: All You Need To Know About The Recycled Fabric.