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The Circular Economy for Textiles: are we nearly there?
Date: Monday 25th November 2019
Time: Wine reception 5.30pm, lecture 6pm
Location: GM LT2, Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester M15 6LL
Tickets: Free – Available on Eventbrite
Achieving sustainability in textiles has been acknowledged as a worthy goal by industry leaders, who have invested time and resources to deliver products with attractive environmental stories. However, in a price-sensitive market for apparel and household textiles, there are commercial constraints on decisions affecting the sustainability of products. Prior to the year 2000, most of the environmental improvements were legislation-driven: restrictions on the use of specific dyes and finishes, recycling of packaging and controls on the purity of
effluent waters from industrial premises. Some initiatives were taken by retailers to reduce the environmental footprint associated with laundering and drying textile products. The concept of producer responsibility had been embedded in regulations affecting waste electrical and electronic products, but little else. Nevertheless, some apparel brands initiated take-back schemes and have implicitly acknowledged responsibility for the whole life cycle. This proactive step opened the door for several alternative options for sustainable business models: rental arrangements, mending and repair, upcycling, shwopping, etc.
The past two decades have witnessed, not just steps, but an enormous conceptual leap, and the key phrase is the “Circular Economy” (CE). The goal is not to minimise waste and environmental impacts, but to turn wastes into resources. Materials are recycled and not discarded. There have been two major intellectual drivers for the change: Industrial Ecology and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). In addition, there has been a significant charismatic lead provided by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The team assembled by Ellen MacArthur has succeeded in networking with businesses, business leaders and politicians to put CE firmly on the agenda for change.
Numerous pre-competitive projects have been funded by governments to further the CE goal. Most of these have addressed specific sub-sectors of the textile supply chain, but one has considered the issues comprehensively. This is the Resyntex project, and a team from Manchester Metropolitan University has been active in this project for the past 4 years.
This lecture provides an overview of the project and its achievements. Notably, there is now a pilot plant (capable of processing 100 tonnes of waste textiles per year), operating in Slovenia. The lecture aims to show that whilst there are existing and emerging technology solutions to the challenge of implementing CE, there are still
major cultural barriers that need to be addressed. These affect retailing (the messages accompanying the products), the supply chain (which needs to be more open to industrial symbiosis), the consumers (who make choices about what to purchase and what to dispose), political leaders (who need to address regulation and the use of EPR to support industrial change), and designers (whose decisions are crucial if CE is to become a reality). Technologically, we are nearly there, but culturally, we have still a long way to go!
Professor David Tyler
David Tyler is Professor in Fashion Technologies at Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University. He joined the Department of Clothing Design and Technology at Manchester Metropolitan University in 1979 (now metamorphosed into the Manchester Fashion Institute). He has pursued a number of research interests related to responsive manufacturing (arising from my own PhD), teamworking, systems modelling and new product development. These projects were funded by EPSRC and the DTI.
During 2000-2004, David managed the North West Advanced Apparel Systems Centre, a European-funded initiative to support clothing and textile companies in North-West England. This involved supporting 60 companies with knowledge-intensive projects designed to safeguard or increase employment and sales. This has brought him into contact with a wide range of companies representing all activities in the supply chain. A particular interest in innovation has led to the support of textile digital printing technologies by providing training courses and sponsoring small projects. A DTI-funded project concerned with digital printing and mass customisation in the interior textiles sector involving three Rochdale companies and MMU was completed in January 2004.
From 2006-2008, David completed work for the EU Framework 6 project: “Fashion 2 Future”. This was a technology transfer project involving 38 partners with the aim of building links throughout Europe.
David was lead academic for a KTP project (Knowledge Transfer Partnership – completed 2010) concerned with protective headwear. This project was the stimulus for more recent research into apparel that protects against impacts.
From June 2015-November 2018, David was involved in the EU-funded project: Resyntex. This is a Circular Economy initiative to turn the clothing and textiles life cycle from linear to circular. I am the Leader of WP2 which is concerned mainly with consumer behaviour issues.
David’s current research interests are in new product development, PPE, sustainability issues affecting apparel (notably the EU-funded project Resyntex), mobile e-commerce, wearable technologies and textile digital printing.
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