Amazon, Zalando Among Brands Attempting Polyester Recycling

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Textile-to-textile polyester recycling trial is set to take off.

In a new trial from Accelerating Circularity announced Thursday (an initiative backed by Target, Walmart, Inditex and others), post-consumer polyester waste makes its way into new textiles in demonstration of fashion’s earnest circular aims.

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Aptly named “Accelerating Circularity Europe” (though previous efforts were referred to as the Circular Textile System Trial), the efforts will begin in Europe given the circular fashion priority for European policymakers. The trial is expected to last 18 months with scale determined by reaching minimum order quantities at each step of the value chain. Amazon and Zalando are among the trial partners.

With over 80 members contributing to the initiative’s funding and the trial rollout, Accelerating Circularity counts expertise from experts at Lenzing, Target, VF Corp. and Gap, among others, on its steering committee.

“The circular textiles ecosystem will be thriving, driven by sufficient capacities for innovative fiber-to-fiber recycling, while the incineration and landfilling of textiles will be reduced to the minimum,” shared Accelerating Circularity founder and president Karla Magruder.

Landfilling, and destruction of unsold and returned goods, is a hefty burden to bear for retailers. In an investigation last year, Amazon — recently celebrating a $6-billion sales day on its recent Prime Day — was the subject of scrutiny after a British broadcaster from ITV reported Amazon destroyed millions of items of unsold stock at one of its 24 U.K. warehouses each year.

The company launched a series of projects afterward, including its FBA Grade and Resell program for select sellers. (This generates the “new,” and “used” conditions on resale product listings).

Regardless of company-own projects, retailers must soon bend to incoming legislation. The polyester trial will intentionally align with the European Commission’s broader goals to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. More specifically, it fits into the Commission’s promise to reinvent textile products by 2030 (or those sold in the EU, at least) making them among the most durable, recyclable, non-hazardous and responsible goods on the market. It will accomplish this through its EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles, narrowing in on greenwashing and boosting circularity with initiatives like the Sustainable Products Initiative, Substantiating Green Claims and the Right to Repair.

Along with the polyester trials, Accelerating Circularity’s European division will also plan a range of trials for some of the circular knits and woven fabrics. This means materials like Recover (a recycled fabric that recently attracted a $100 million investment from a Goldman-led firm) and Lenzing’s Refibra, as well as other innovations will get their chance at scaled recycling.

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