Circulose – When Science Meets Fashion

3rd of May 2020

Not so long ago, we believed that fashion and science were two separate worlds. Now, Circulose® is proving us wrong.

We are finally in the age of science and fashion working alongside, and one company we really admire with an active role in the industry is Re:newcell - a Swedish company that is leading the charge towards sustainability in the fashion industry by creating garments from Circulose – a new material made from discarded cotton textiles. It all started when a group of scientists at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, had been researching more efficient ways to get discarded cotton back into people’s closets. Together, they were able to turn their vision into a successful reality.  

We had the chance to ask their incredible Marketing Coordinator Nora some questions to find out more about the Circulose® story and what the future looks like for the fashion industry. Keep on scrolling! 

How did Circulose come to be? Where was it discovered?

Circulose is a natural material for fashion made 100% from discarded cotton textiles. It is produced by Re:newcell, a Swedish company launched in 2012. Re:newcell was founded at Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology by a group of scientists and entrepreneurs who all landed at the same question “Is there a way to save the cotton that people have spent so much effort growing, from landfills and put it back into people’s closets?“ Together they could see the demand, had a vision for the technology and the capacity to turn the concept into a profitable business. In January 2012 they founded Re:newcell.

We really admire the way you guys have invented an entirely new kind of fiber! Where do the discarded textiles come from?

Thank you! Circulose® is made from discarded textile like a worn-out pair of jeans or clothes that cannot be resold again. Our recycling technology dissolves used cotton and other natural fibers into a new, biodegradable raw material – Circulose® pulp. This can then be fed into the textile production cycle, meet industry specifications and used in the production of new clothes.

We partner up with sorters of donated textiles from all over the world that sends us waste. The same businesses and organizations that handle and grade vintage and second hand garments. We also source textile waste directly from clothes manufacturers.

What impact has fast-fashion had on clothing waste?

Fashion has long been about growing more cotton, using more water and pumping more oil in order to make more clothes. The pace of resource extraction and the way we buy, use and discard clothes keeps increasing. Sometimes the clothes produced or bought are not even worn at all. As we are treating our clothes as disposable items only 1% of the textile waste is being recycled.

Most important is the fact that with a growing global middle class even more people will want to express themselves and their identities through what they wear. Even more people will adopt new consumption patterns which means buying more clothes and using each garment fewer times before discarding it.

What is the best thing we can do for our fashion CO2 footprint?

The best thing would be to stop buying clothes all together. But that doesn’t seem very likely so we will have to come up with other options. The most important thing is to only buy clothes you really need and will use for a long time. It is also a good idea to buy second-hand or from brands that have a credible sustainability focus, choosing to make clothes from Circulose® fibers for example. Another important thing is to always recycle your clothes once they are worn out and you cannot use or sell them. Hopefully, more recycled textile will be put to use in the future and not end up in landfills. 

Why is it important to keep textiles out of the landfill?

The more material we can keep on bodies and out of landfill, the less water, land, oil, trees we need to consume to replace it. The question is also what happens to the textiles in the landfill? Even if the textiles eventually do break down, it can take up to 200 years and as it decomposes it emits methane – a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2. So, millions of tons of textile waste every year and 200 years of methane emission for each piece – hopefully that equation answers the question. 

If you could give one piece of advice to consumers, what would it be?

To think twice if you really do need it. Sometimes we shop out of habit and don’t really think about it. We have all been there. But it is so crucial that we make more conscious decisions to change our impact on the environment. Buy things you need and will love for a long time instead. And well of course –  look for Circulose®.


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