New Eco-Conscious Programs, Products & Packaging.
Even companies rooted in green ideals are upping their sustainability profile as it becomes increasingly clear within the textile industry that doing good for the planet has become the modern business model. Here we shine a light on emerging trends in the field of environmental responsibility: supply chain recycling, progressive regenerative farming methods, and eco solutions for accessory items and shipping materials.
Closing the Loop
As sustainability efforts increase worldwide it’s likely recycled polyester will tighten in supply. Kingwhale is exploring new avenues to advance polyester recycling and control its supply chain. These new initiatives aim to build on Kingwhale’s established commitment to sustainability; the Taiwanese producer introduced its Low Impact Technology (L.I.T.) for manufacturing many years ago; the process allows a significant savings of chemicals, energy and water. Kingwhale was the first Asian company to adopt bluesign.
Creating a branded platform for a garment-to-garment recycling program is now a key priority. The process would include a take back program to “feed” a loop of recycling led by Kingwhale in a partnership arrangement.
“We have garment to yarn. But the next step is a system, or a business model that advances to garment to garment, that also includes using waste from garment manufacturing,” explains Kingwhale president, James Huang, adding, “As long as it is a textile product, we can take that and bring it back to yarn, to make another garment.”
Kingwhale is in the process of building the recycle plant in Taiwan. Identifying several candidates as potential brand partners is also taking shape.
“The recycling technology is mature and ready for commercial,” states Huang. “The company is working on the collection/sorting, packaging, and logistic operation, meaning from the start of the collection process through to how the goods get to the factory for recycling treatment.”
Another area of focus for Kingwhale is sourcing plastic bottles, for shipment to Taiwan for processing into recycled polyester yarn. Says Huang, “On the recycling material, using recycled bottles, we are working on projects where we are involved in investing in a turn-key solution in one of the undeveloped countries. We will be working with a local charity where they will work on collecting the bottles, and we will assist in taking the bottles and make them into chip. This will allow us to control our own supply chain and transparency.”
“We have the logistics and we have the technology.”
— James Huang, president, Kingwhale
Leaders in “fast fashion” are also on the recycling fast track. For example, Inditex, Zara’s $29 billion parent company, has pledged to invest in developing new recycling technologies. According to a recent article on FastCompany.com, Inditex is in collaboration with M.I.T. for a $4 million project that researches new ways to recover fibers from old garments using clean energy.
Inditex has also begun creating systems to collect old garments to divert them from landfills. In 2017, it created a program to pick up used clothes from people’s homes when delivering online orders in Beijing and Shanghai, and within a year it had managed to collect more than 850,000 items of clothing from that effort alone. By 2018, the company collected 34,158 tons of clothing.
Farm Fresh Ideas
“Regenerative” is reaching buzzword status within textiles as companies grasp the associated carbon benefits. Patagonia dedicated an entire seminar session on Regenerative Organic Certification at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market and Wrangler’s latest denim collection features cotton grown by American farmers practicing progressive regenerative practices. Allbirds, Organic Valley and Everlane have all expressed interest in regenerative agriculture.
However, Bren Smith believes regenerative momentum going forward will not be land based. “Now is the time for the country that has turned its back to the sea to turn around and farm the ocean,” states Smith, GreenWave executive director and owner of Thimble Island Ocean Farm located off the Connecticut coast. Smith has been gaining momentum himself for pioneering the development of restorative 3D Ocean Farming. A lifelong commercial fisherman, Smith was named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “25 People Shaping the Future” and was featured in TIME magazine’s “Best Inventions of 2017.”
At a presentation of his recently published book, Eat Like a Fish, Smith explained how the ocean is a unique agricultural space that relies on zero inputs yet offers opportunity to grow hundreds of kinds of shellfish, thousands types of vegetables, and a product with loads of textile potential – seaweed. “Kelp is called the Sequoia of the Sea, and soaks up five times more carbon than land-based plants; what’s incredible is that 91 percent of the worlds carbon is sequestered in plants,” says Smith.
“This new, emerging movement of the ocean farming is happening in our county which has been turning it’s back to the sea, but is now turning to the ocean.”
— Bren Smith, author and executive director, GreenWave
Smith’s GreenWave nonprofit is described as “supporting a new generation of ocean farmers feeding the planet and building a blue-green economy in the era of climate change.” He says to understand ocean farming, imagine a three-dimensional underwater garden. Acreage is on the bottom, ropes up to the surface are held by buoys, and also go horizontally below the surface. Seaweed kelp is grown vertically downward. (Smith also farms mussels, oysters and clams.)
GreenWave’s 3D Ocean Farming model has a low barrier to entry (20 acres, a boat, and $20,000) with a high-yield of seaweed and shellfish. The model matters because it is replicable, scalable and sustainable.
Smith, however, adds, “Sustainable is great, but sustainable is about making bad things better. Like our clothing, based on petroleum. We need to move beyond that in the era of climate change and develop products that give back to our ecosystem. Like carbon.”
He continues, “Small, boutique solutions are not enough. We need solutions that can scale up and replicate.” GreenWave has worked to create over 4000 ocean farms based on its 3D model in recent years, in addition to its GreenWave Reef farm model that looks to achieve a goal of 500 farms in 10 regions in the next five years.
According to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, compostable packaging is gaining steam. Though composting infrastructure is not yet widespread across the U.S., interest in this recovery pathway is growing rapidly.
And that’s a good thing: the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) reports that the U.S. waste and recycling industry handles 258 million tons of waste generated each year.
Global garment packaging and accessories supplier Rudholm Group wants the marketplace to know “WeCare.” That is the name of the company’s new range of packaging products that are naturally biodegradable in landfill conditions.
Products in the “WeCare” collection include polybags, shipping mailers, PET box-packaging, shirt collar stands, collar stays and collar support.
It is estimated that these new products take around 12 to 24 months to break down, but the biodegradation time has been observed to be even faster in most cases, according to Rudholm.
The technology speeds the breakdown of the plastic’s polymer chain, allowing naturally existing microorganisms to consume the plastic. This new process improves an oxo-degradable technology both in terms of speed of breakdown, but importantly, results in elimination of micro-plastics and/or toxic residue left behind.
“The fact that the technology can be used within any plastic polymer makes it incredibly versatile in terms of possibilities.”
— Dennis Lau, director, Rudholm Group USA
“The fact that the technology can be used within any plastic polymer makes it incredibly versatile in terms of possibilities,” says Dennis Lau, director, Rudholm Group USA.
All products are manufactured in Rudholm Groups regions, including China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India and Turkey. According to Lau, the additional cost of production will have a minimal impact on the final product cost, making it easily accessible for any brand.