UNLEASH Lab
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UNLEASH Lab

Fashion waste as a resource with added value of 200 €/kg

Too much waste

While throwing out moldy textiles from charity warehouse I was wondering how is this possible? We have spent several hours going through the textile waste, which nobody wanted, nor families in need, nor homeless people, nobody. I was working at that time for an NGO, where we collected tremendous amounts of used textiles and had not enough people in need to deliver them to. After several months worn out clothes laying on the warehouse floor become moldy and we needed to throw it away.

We are searching for solutions to divert old clothes from ending up land-filled. sobi

When I started to dig into fashion facts I was even more shocked. Fashion business is the second biggest water polluter and the second dirtiest industry in the world. While we throw away our old clothes, it could be reused or recycled. But in many cases, they end up in landfills and up to 95% of those textiles could be recycled. Pre-consumer textile waste has quite high percentage of recycling by manufacturers, but only 15% of post-consumer textile waste is recycled. Nowadays there are take back programs by several apparel companies. If we look at what H&M is doing with amounts returned to them, only 0,1% is recycled, most of what they receive is sold to charity. And I have described in the beginning, how it looks at those charity warehouses.

The average lifetime of a piece of clothing is only about 3 years. Then it becomes either not wearable, not fashionable, loses its colour or we can find many other reasons why not to wear it any more. But should it end up in landfills? Do people know where their old clothes travel after leaving their wardrobes?

Where are we sending our old clothes once we no longer want or need them?

We need tangible solutions

I believe campaigning works well only if we can show people alternative ways. It is not enough to throw at someone all these dirty statistics and wait until they change their behaviour. So, I was thinking, how to reintroduce those textiles into new products and tell the story.

In collaboration with a fashion designer we have produced the first prototypes made out of 100% recycled textile (almost) waste. This laptop case and shopping bag are speaking the raw truth about their life cycle.

Our very first prototypes made out of 100% recycled textile waste. sobi

You might see this material somewhere at the construction site, widely used in some industries, but not the fashion one. So, we decided to close the loop inside this industry. Why are we creating this mixed non-woven fabric and not breaking clothes back into fibres? Because it is possible to break 100% cotton shirt, or 100% polyester one, but technologies don’t allow us to break the blended fabrics so easily. Yes, some companies are trying to develop this technology, but it is similar like separating mixed plastics, or plastics combined with paper. It might not be completely impossible, but definitely very costly and technology-intensive.

Cooperating with global innovators

I was fortunate to work on this idea during the past year with my team in Slovakia and lately got an incredible opportunity to work on it with an international team during UNLEASH Laboratory in Denmark.

International innovators gathered in Denmark during UNLEASH Laboratory. This was an amazing team LOOPER I was fortunate to be part of, coming from all over the world.

We have calculated, that by selling textile waste to other industries, you are able to add a value of not even 10 euro cents per kilogram of textile. On the other hand by reintroducing these materials within the fashion industry you can easily add value of 200 € per each and every single kilogram of a potential waste. And we would love to see changed perception and diverting from seeing those textiles as a waste, but rather to see them as a resource.

Amazing partnerships, coherent actions

While developing this idea I have created partnerships in Slovakia and Czech Republic with recycling facility, charity warehouses, GreenWay Infrastructure (providing network of electric vehicle charging stations), Voltia (green logistics company using EVs) and mayamay - a fashion designer. Now, we are looking into further development of products, prototyping and testing phase. Looking into these steps, we would appreciate cooperation with a technology expert on textile materials. For the whole developing and prototyping phase we will need also funding, so we can develop good quality fashion products.

Social impact

Our aim is to produce these products at social workshops, so we will not only focus on the environmental dimension of our activities, but directly give green jobs to those, who need them the most.

If you would like to cooperate on this project, please, visit our website en.sobioz.sk and leave me a message through it.

sobi. Innovating future solidarity

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Global innovation lab creating disruptive solutions for the UN's SDGs

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Tomas Horvath

Tomas Horvath

Social Entrepreneur, Eco-Social Innovator @unleashlab Alumni, Peace builder @unaoc Alumni, NGO Manager - International Aid & Social Development

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