| Circular, Sustainability

Textiles – the next frontier of the circular economy

James Beard, Head of Voluntary Compliance at Valpak by Reconomy

A circular economy revolution is underway and textiles may just be the next frontier in this transition.

Manufacturers, suppliers, retailers and procurers across the world have been tweaking – or in some cases overturning – their traditional business operations to meet new regulations and new expectations that endorse and promote greater sustainability.

This requires designing out waste from economies and cutting down on the detrimental impacts of waste – from the consumption of finite resources and increased emissions to damaging environments and biodiversity.

And as nations across the world look to improve waste management and transition towards more circular models, material by material and sector by sector, it looks like the time has come for textiles to come under the microscope.

The urgency for this focus is clear, with textiles ranking as one of the worst offenders when it comes to environmentally harmful materials.

According to the European Environment Agency, textile consumption in the EU causes the third highest pressures on land and water use as well as the fifth highest usage of raw materials and greenhouse gas emissions.

Less than 1% of textiles worldwide are recycled into new products.

As a result, we are now seeing regulators cotton on to the need to develop more sustainable ways of creating, selling and recycling textiles so that the industry reduces its environmental impact, preserves finite resources and pushes waste up the hierarchy.

For example, earlier this year, the European Parliament passed the first stage of Textiles EPR legislation which will soon be mandatory across EU member states.

Global implementation of these schemes is accelerating and we anticipate widespread global adoption of similar schemes over the coming years.

With the UK and other governments forecast to follow suit in the coming years, the investment case for industry stakeholders to refresh their legacy, linear operational methods in line with the circular economy is growing stronger.

We see first-hand both the challenges and opportunity this presents.

As Valpak by Reconomy, we have been guiding textile industry stakeholders through this shifting regulatory landscape, ensuring they are aware of how current, future and potential legislative shifts are likely to impact them – especially those with international supply chains and sales models.


We recently launched a brand new service called ReDress which brings together these capabilities to help businesses understand and deal with their global obligations as well as the financial impact and reporting requirements stemming from these regulations.

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From a sustainability perspective, the service will help international brands and producers redress the environmental impact of fashion.

While adjusting to the reforms will inevitably cause major challenges for several businesses – big and small – embracing the need to place sustainability at the heart of their operations will be critical for success in the textiles industry.

As we have seen in the growing adoption of the circular economy, there can be initial costs and ongoing compliance fees but there are also huge opportunities to create efficiencies, streamline processes, drive transformational change for our environments and lead the industry in sustainable economic growth.

The transition to a circular economy is accelerating and the time is now for the textiles industry to make its contribution.

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