Reverse Resources – using data to revolutionise textile waste management and recycling

Background Information

With the emerging textile recycling sector, the textile industry grapples with a significant challenge: the mismanagement of textile waste. In Bangladesh, the issue is exacerbated by an emerging textile-to-textile (T2T) recycling sector struggling to gain traction amidst the dominance of informal waste management practices. Garment factories face hurdles in waste segregation, further diminishing the value of recyclable materials. While Pakistan has an established textile recycling industry, challenges persist due to opaque textile flows and reliance on imported post-consumer waste. This lack of transparency hampers efficiency in waste utilisation and exacerbates the imbalance between waste supply and demand. Despite nascent recycling markets, the fashion industry’s uptake of recycled materials remains low. Addressing these challenges requires bolstering demand for recycled materials and enhancing waste management practices to mitigate environmental impact and promote sustainable textile recycling.

Reverse Resources has taken a unique data-driven approach to solve this market gap by scaling post-industrial textile-to-textile recycling and efficiently using textile waste within the fashion industry as a strategic resource. They have developed an innovative combination of digital tools (a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform), standardised processes and a win-win business case to align the various textile supply chain stakeholders. The RR team collaborates with large retail brands to create a call-to-action among the brands’ suppliers to start segregating waste by fibre composition i.e. at source. Suppliers often get a better price for the waste while doing so. The RR team then enable recyclers to buy textile waste straight from the source (the original supplier). On the SaaS platform, a transparent supply chain gets set up before the actual movement of the waste, which allows recyclers to verify material background information and quality upfront, and cut out any unnecessary steps from the chain of custody. The SaaS platform supports a standardised data-driven process, aligning goals towards circularity, maximising business benefits and allowing the scaling of the circular business due to cost-efficiency and real-time market insight.

Through such an approach, RR solution plays a role in overcoming the market barriers in three ways:

  1. Mapping waste from source, matchmaking this with best recyclers and profiling the market players for ease of development of efficient supply chains.
  2. Offering real-time data and statistics of waste flows on the platform, which allows planning and balancing the supply and demand so that the growing recycling capacity would meet the volumes and types of textile waste streams available in the market.
  3. Aggregated data and verification of the data accuracy of waste flow allows to set a baseline and drive targets around tracing waste to high-end T2T and build more accurate estimates of total waste sent to landfill or incineration, giving a great tool for public-private partnerships around common goals and shared metrics.

The RR platform is currently active in Bangladesh, and the objective of this SMEP-funded project is to:

  1. scale up their existing reach in Bangladesh to get more partners onboard,
  2. introduce this approach to the market in Pakistan, a leading textile producing country, and
  3. pilot the development of the platform’s functionality and user-friendliness to target post-consumer textile waste in Pakistan.

Overall, the project’s goal is to trace and digitally verify at least 2.5 million tonnes of textile waste to textile-to-textile recycling annually by 2030, globally reducing the fashion industry’s reliance on virgin materials and its environmental impact significantly. The project aims to register 1,200 tonnes of waste in Bangladesh and 200 tonnes in Pakistan on the RR platform, with a minimum of 30% reaching textile-to-textile recycling, equating to a reduction of approximately 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions yearly.

Updates

The project was initiated in March 2024, and inception activities have begun in earnest. The official launch of the project took place at a pivotal event, the 3rd International Conference on Knowledge-based Textiles, which the National Textile University in Pakistan hosted on March 5th and 6th. Reverse Resources also participated in the OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Industry and participated in the parallel session In the loop: adapting due diligence to circular processes in the lead up to the project launch.

Significant progress has been made during these initial months of the project and a monitoring and evaluation plan has been put in place to track the project’s progress. The project team is working closely with the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), a Denmark-based non-profit organisation that proactively advocates for legislation and supportive measures that reinforce sustainability targets and incentivises change through strategic partners (including various companies representing different market segments and geographies. This collaboration between Reverse Resources and GFA has contributed towards exploring partnerships with various brands, and engagements have been undertaken with major brands, including Marks & Spencer, Uniqlo, Crossline, Amazon, Intersport, and Teddy Group for outreach. Independent manufacturing groups were also identified and onboarded onto the Reverse Resources SaaS Platform. The team also designed a SaaS dashboard prototype specifically for the public sector which shows information such as waste volumes and waste characteristics. This will be introduced to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.

For the pilot work taking place in Pakistan, the team has successfully secured partnerships with four global brands. As part of the outreach efforts, these brands nominated suitable supply chain partners in Pakistan, including manufacturers, waste handlers and recyclers, for participation in the project and these stakeholders have been actively engaged. The team also integrated the post-consumer textile waste databases into the SaaS platform, and they are exploring opportunities for collaboration with partners, such as SOEX, Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy, and Polfibra, particularly regarding sorting technologies.

These developments signify a promising start to our project and lay a solid foundation for future progress.

Connect with Reverse Resources – using data to revolutionise textile waste management and recycling

Websites

Timeframe

March 2024 – March 2026

Status

Active

Countries of Implementation

Consortium Partners

Showcase Resources

Key media links can be accessed here:

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