Societal Innovation
Societal Innovation
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Socio-technical Innovation
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Circular Business Models Innovation
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Product & Tech Innovation
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Material Innovation
Innovative Partnerships Communication Awareness raising

Towards a circular textile industry

Within the REFLOW project, the Amsterdam pilot focuses on textiles used by citizens, how these textiles are disposed of and reused, and how textiles as resources can be brought back into material flow streams. By supporting more diverse strategies for the retrieving of textiles, the project can aid the provision of feedstock for recycling industries, popularize recycled textiles and supply new products out of recycled resources for other stakeholders. The goal is to increase the quantity of textiles collected by empowering citizens to become the change-makers – by taking an active part in the behavioural change unfolding in Amsterdam, enabling them to educate and empower others.

To this end, the Denim Deal provides an alliance across the value chain of denim, giving all involved parties certainty over the production process and new industry standards over the production of denim products. The Amsterdam Metropolitan Region is a significant centre for the denim industry. By establishing a strategic public-private partnership in the value chain here, the Netherlands demonstrate that it can take concrete action towards a circular market for denim.

Creating demand in the denim industry for recycled cotton fibres and organising the required processing capacity for collection, sorting, cutting and cleaning will lead to a healthy market in which circular economic activity can flourish. The approach taken in this deal can also serve as an example to the entire garment and textiles sector. It can inspire other textile waste flows and end products at the national, European and international level.

The city of Amsterdam has placed social and environmental wellbeing on an equal footing with economic welfare. With sustainability as one of its top priorities, the city has set a clear goal of reducing waste and transitioning to a circular economy. Clear institutional support, together with a conducive climate for circular innovation and implementation of circular principles have already reaped benefits – over the last few years, more than 70 completed projects have contributed to the implementation of a circular economy in Amsterdam.

Textiles are one of the main points of focus for the Dutch government and the city of Amsterdam in particular. Increasing the circularity of urban textile industries can play a critical role in reaching the overall sustainability and circularity goals of the EU. Under the national Circular Economy Pact, signed by Amsterdam in 2019, the city is also renewing its textile collection procedures, focusing on better strategies for executing the collection.

The Denim Deal is part of the broader Amsterdam municipality’s Green Deal. It is a public-private partnership that involves a plurality of different stakeholders. The stakeholders include: (i) governmental entities that act as the administrative authority, (ii) municipal authorities, (iii) private textile waste processing companies, (iv) textile manufacturing companies and (v) brand owners and retailers. Part of the loop will be outsourced outside of the Netherlands, as it cannot be served domestically; for example, parts of the textile waste processing and manufacturing companies are based in Turkey. This makes the Denim Deal not only a multi-stakeholder, but also a multi-national agreement.

The different parties involved in the Denim Deal have indicated that they can contribute to closing the loop by increasing both the supply of and demand for high-grade recycled fibres. This systemic change will require close cooperation between key stakeholders, taking into account everyone’s role and responsibilities. In this way, they aim to accelerate progress towards a sustainable denim sector, in which denim clothing and fabrics are used smartly and economically, and waste and pollution are kept to a minimum. 

The involved stakeholders will jointly endeavour to close the denim loop by promoting the use of high-grade recycled cotton fibres in new jeans and other denim garments. They will, at any rate, commit to the joint ambition of working as quickly as possible towards a new industry standard of at least 5% PCR cotton fibres used in the production of all denim garments and will raise the bar in the future based on the learnings of this Green Deal. Transparent annual reports of the activities undertaken will be published, documenting the results achieved, and their effects towards achieving the goals towards the Green Deal.

The aim is to showcase a new blueprint for sustainable textile industry in the future, where the use of recycled fibres in denim becomes the new industry standard.

The collaborative effort of the public institutions, private companies and individuals, that started before and will go beyond the REFLOW project, has shown how one can tackle the need for sustainability of an entire value chain in an integrated manner. Major industry brands are convinced and committed to the goals set by the Denim Deal in order to make denim circular and sustainable. For example, Scotch & Soda, MUD Jeans and Kuyichi, together will make three million jeans garments containing at least 20 per cent recycled textiles.

The change of demand for denim in the Netherlands has an additional global effect, meaning that companies in Turkey and China are now incentivized to produce more sustainably. This is a significant contribution of the Denim Deal as for the first time internationally, all parties involved in the denim industry are working together to promote and implement a more circular production loop.

The most important factor for the early success of the Denim Deal was the participation of all the parties involved in the design and manufacturing of denim garments, from brand owners and retailers to collectors, fiberers and weavers. The Denim Deal permeates the entire value chain and all signatories are committed to achieve the goal of circular, more sustainable, denim. Moreover, it is an agreement that can work as a blueprint on how to implement circular economy principles on other garments or materials, while simultaneously making the upscaling a lot easier. Environmentally and financially, the Denim Deal provides an exceptional case of a successful public-private partnership clearly oriented towards a transition to a circular urban economy.