Innovation That Matters

The Circular Cotton Collective brings businesses together to benefit from recycling technology | Photo source Trisha Downing on Unsplash

New Zealand textile companies collaborate on closed-loop production

The collective can use recycling technology at a scale individual companies cannot afford

Spotted: New Zealand’s Little Yellow Bird clothing company sets a gold standard for sustainability. From the co-ops that grow the cotton used in its garments, to the ginning, spinning, weaving, dying, and manufacturing processes it employs, the company provides full traceability for every garment. That traceability extends to the end of a product’s life as well. Consumers can buy Take Back Bags that they can fill with unwanted items from any brand. These can be sent back to the business for recycling, where the products are broken down and eventually turned into recycled fibres for reuse.

Realising the scale of the need for improvements in global manufacturing processes, the company is now leading a group of like-minded organisations in New Zealand in creating a regional cotton recycling initiative. Called the Circular Cotton Collective, the group is exploring ways to pool resources in order to provide local recycling technologies. Little Yellow Bird is leading the development of a feasibility study for the project.

Many individual businesses cannot afford to run their own recycling plant, which is why a collaborative approach could provide exponential benefits. Rather than shipping discarded cotton items abroad, and thereby losing a significant volume of material, members of the Collective could close the loop in their own production processes and begin using recycled fibres in their clothing.

Many brands are doing some recycling and upcycling already. As well as keeping fabric out of landfill, transforming other types of waste into fabrics is another means of innovating in fashion. Springwise has spotted a company turning waste cellulose—anything from paper to cotton—into a new material that feels just like cotton. And an outdoor fashion brand that uses recycled polyester and nylon in its designs has also created a fabric made from castor beans.  

Written by: Keely Khoury



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