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MOTIF Learning Series tackles Sustainable Raw Materials

Back by popular demand, our latest virtual Learning Series focused on the theme of Developing Sustainable Products, with a first deep dive on Sustainable Raw Materials with Christine Yu from AndAll, Mukul Agrawal from Birla Cellulose and Tara St James from Re: Source(d).

While the fashion industry recognises that sustainability is not only the right thing to do but also makes complete business sense, translating ESG strategies into more suitable products in practical and commercial terms is challenging. On our third Series on June 29,  we invited three guest experts / speakers from different parts of the fashion ecosystem to share their knowledge and experience on the fundamentals for developing a sustainable materials roadmap. Our goal with these Learning Series events is to bring together small groups of people to tackle, discuss and brainstorm around much-needed industry innovation. Attendees hailed from across Asia and Europe and North America.

Christine Yu, Founder of AndAll, started the session sharing how she navigated raw material selection and sourcing and the obstacles she faced when building her sustainable brand from scratch, as well as her top tips for others, including her go to resources recommendations.

There’s an urgency and necessity for new technology to produce sustainable clothing. Although there is a lot of attention around the topic, there isn’t enough. There will be new solutions for repurposing conventional fiber.

Christine Yu, Founder, AndAll

Then Mukul Agrawal, Chief Sustainability Officer at Birla Cellulose, went on to discuss how brands can make the shift to more sustainable materials and fibres options, highlighting the differences between conventional and preferred cellulosics and sharing advice on how to source more sustainable materials taking into account availability and price. Tara St James, Founder of Re:source(d) followed looking into the future of textiles and the latest technology and innovations, including biomaterials and their current ability to be adopted at scale.

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Sustainability is a journey, the key is you need to get started.

Mukul Agrawal, Chief Sustainability Officer, Birla Cellulose

The first breakout session focused on challenges encountered by attendees and their companies/brands with many citing availability of sustainable materials and their accessibility as well as the discrepancy of situations between countries in particular with regards to recycling possibilities. In the second breakout session, in which participants exchanged on the potential solutions, how technology can support transparency was highlighted,  together with the need to look at where a brand plays to identify where to start, as well as the key questions to consider and knowledge resources to build a sustainable raw materials roadmap.

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Designers roles have evolved into making conscious sustainable efforts as decisions taken at design stage are critical in the overall sustainability of a product.

Tara St James, Founder, Re: Source(d)

We picked out some of the questions posted in chat and have them below with answers from our visiting experts for the benefit of all.

The Learning Series returns at the end of July continuing on the Developing Sustainable Products theme to take a closer look at how to build a sustainable brand from scratch with two new experts presenting and interactive breakout discussions. See you then!

You asked, our experts answered

Q Mukul, how are you handling availability / demand concerns – especially in the context of sustainability?

Mukul The demand is increasing steadily for recycled circular fiber like Liva Reviva. To ensure availability of waste and that the reverse logistics are ready for increased capacity required, we have entered into agreements with several waste producers and have provided training and specifications of the waste, tested the quality of the waste for sustainability of recycling  and qualified the source. Also we are sourcing through collaborations like CFS+. Our brand partners are also helping us by asking the garment suppliers to sell the industrial cotton waste to us. By selling the segregated waste for up-cycling, the waste recyclers also get a higher value of the waste. This ensures that we are aware of the source of waste, quality and sustainability aspects. This helps upscale the waste, provides higher value for the waste and also helps set up an efficient reverse logistic system that is helpful in reducing the cost. 

 

Q Are there any cellulose based fibres that have properties like polyester and nylon with high stretch that would be suitable for swimwear?

Mukul The stretch can be provided by blending with lycra, elastane or spandex. We are developing some fibers which will have hydrophobicity required for such applications.

Christine The stretch can be provided by blending with lycra, elastane or spandex. We are developing some fibers which will have hydrophobicity required for such applications.

Q Mukul, is there any use of postconsumer waste possible to make viscose / lyocell already?

Mukul Post-consumer cotton waste is already in use for making products like Liva Reviva, though in smaller quantities and selectively. The technologies for separation of different types of synthetic fibers from cellulosic fibers are still developing but we have been able to use some of these materials in our manufacturing process. These technologies are now getting more established and being scaled up.

Q And how do you manage the material waste at the end of the cutting process?

Mukul We provide training to the cutting waste team to collect waste in a certain way so that it is possible to recycle the waste easily. Segregation at source is very important. Now most of the waste that is getting recycled is cutting waste in the MMCF industry. This has been possible with close corporations from progressive garment manufacturers who have participated in this program for scaling up Liva Reviva and brands partners who are asking their suppliers to send their cutting table waste to Birla Cellulose. 

Q How do you find recyclers? Do you get money for this?

Mukul The waste is currently getting mixed up and that is the reason it’s value is low. By segregation of the waste, the recyclers are able to get higher value for the waste. The garment manufacturers typically outsource the waste handling to recyclers, who manage the overall waste collection. We developed the guidelines on waste handling and that has helped increasing the value of the waste for the waste producer as well as those small scale enterprises who collect and sell this waste.

Q Does zero waste clothing design really improve sustainability or just push the waste down the road?

Christine Using as much of a raw material as possible is absolutely imperative. It not only forces us to generate less waste at the outset due to design or other choices (or example, we use a style of print so that we can use most of the textile at the outset). The alternative (ie being more wasteful with textile, not being focused on zero waste) is definitely worse in terms of waste and resources.

Q Mukul, How does RCS standard come as a benefit / plus for Reviva for you?

Mukul The RCS is a useful certification to communicate to a larger audience, both for fiber manufacturers and for the brands. Also it ensures traceability of waste. For the traceability of waste we also provide a blockchain based GreenTrack platform to all our customers. For Liva Reviva, it has been very helpful in the assurance part for the brands who use it.

Q Mukul, is Birla viscose/lyocell available in Turkey?

All our products are available in Turkey including lyocell, Livaeco, Modal and Livaeco viscose.There are supply chain partners in Turkey who keep stocks of these products. We have our marketing office in Turkey that helps the customers based out of Turkey. We can connect the buyers to our value chain partners in Turkey.

Q Christine, can you recap on why it was important to design your products entirely from Tencel (Lyocell)?

It was very important for us to stick to our raw materials priorities (biodegradable, recyclable and low water + energy usage)– Tencel fit the bill. We were impressed with the durability and trans-seasonality for Tencel Lyocell (for example, you can’t wear linen shirts in winter). We really wanted to avoid cotton, even organic cotton as much as possible to precisely bring attention to other sustainable options like Tencel Lyocell. Lenzing is also an incredible partner for us and we felt that it was the best long term fabric choice for our line.

Additionally, we decided it was important to design our products entirely in mono-material ie the entire thing using the same fiber. This is extremely important because this means we are better positioning our garment for its end of use — which makes it easier for recycling. If it is not re-purposed at the end of its life, our garment will at least also biodegrade at the same rates.

Q In your opinion is this what we should be aiming for on a mass production basis – mono fibre product?

Christine  Fabric choice is a very important aspect of circular design, but it is by no means a simple choice. Making fabric in mono-material wouldn’t matter if we are able to easily recycle fabrics which are made of mixed fibers. The reality is that this is not the case. The other challenge is that fiber mixes are often used to ensure the garment is used and loved, as well as fit for its purpose– these are also important elements of circular design. It’s a challenge to balance all those priorities.  However there are so many advances in fiber technology that I do hope we can develop more innovative fibers which allow a greater range of use and application where mono-material will not be the only way to best position a garment for its end of use. Right now though, unless we develop innovative fibers and better recycling technologies,  mono-material construction is one of the main approaches we have in our circular design tool kit.

Q And did you have issues with the strength of the sewing thread when stitching, is the breakage higher than a standard core spun poly thread which is usually used?

Christine Lyocell is an extremely durable fiber.

Q How do we deal with the issue of consumption, how can we set targets for this as an industry?

Christine There’s a lot of public discourse on this topic. Mindful consumption is not a popular model for many companies. AndAll is uniquely focused on this concept. It’s ultimately going to mean education efforts for the consumer along with industry heavyweights making huge commitments, along with some regulation around materials and chemicals usage.

Q Why don’t we use more stem based fibres (linen) etc…?

Christine I would love that! I think it’s also, however, down to demand and pricing.

Q How do we drive more efficiency in the E2E process to minimise waste rather than just focusing on post consumer?

Christine Circular design approaches!

"Define your raw materials priorities, decide on your raw materials “north star”, commit to it _even when it gets difficult to do so_, keep abreast of innovation in the space, and test test test to help you map out your realistic raw materials roadmap.."

Christine Yu, Founder, AndAll Tweet

Q Christine, Tara and Mukul would you have some good resources recommendations?

Here are a few beyond what you will find in the MOTIF Sustainability Resources Page:

And other resources mentioned during our Learning Series event:

Keep an eye out for our next Learning Series HERE.

Need to level-up to progress on your sustainability journey? Check-out our sustainability online courses or Sustainability Hybrid Program for teams.

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