Europeans buy at least 5,4 million tonnes of clothing and household textiles every year, and over half end up as mixed household waste (1). This is an outdated linear model that embodies the race to the bottom where companies use large amounts of resources to create materials that will become waste too soon. Today, there is a political mandate and climate imperative for a circular textile industry, but crucial data for this transition is not accessible, is inaccurate, or simply doesn’t exist. If policy and business decisions are driven by quality data, circular value chains will be economically viable and can develop and scale faster.
(1) European Commission, JRC Technical Report: Circular economy perspectives in the EU Textile sector, 2021
We approached the problem from two different perspectives: :
- Engaging and aligning the public and private sectors to create knowledge, data-driven partnerships and business incentives that improve textile circulation.
- Collecting and exchanging data to increase access to circular business opportunities, efficiency of regulatory compliance and access to funding. This data flow also enables statistics and metrics to be more accurate and available in near real-time for businesses and policy makers.
At the beginning of the experiment, we developed a data model that could quantify and characterize textiles along a circular value chain in a standardized way. Next we collaborated with Uuskasutuskeskus, Humana and Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto to collect data on materials quantities, fiber composition and chain of custody information for textile to textile recycling across the Estonia-Finland border.
Because the data was standardized, the material flow was easily digitized for industry use within the Reverse Resources platform and formatted for an Estonian regulatory compliance system at the same time. Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) tested the physical properties and basic fiber composition of the materials, providing final validation materials qualities for recyclers.
We also standardized and aggregated multiple data sources into dashboards for municipalities and the Ministry of Environment to quantify textile flows across Estonia.
Importantly, we found that when the materials flow data is standardized, it is possible to access new recycling markets, quantify a business’s impact for the circular economy and generate accurate statistics for the public sector simultaneously and in near real-time.
Within Accelerate Estonia, TEXroad has proven it is possible to deliver useful information from the same sources interpreted for different applications within the public and private sector. Collected data becomes valuable across organizations and sectors only when it’s in a standardized form, usable for interested parties.
The Real-Time Economy initiative within the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications has seen the value of a standard data model for data exchange within a specific sector and identified applications to test this further with TEXroad. Estonian municipalities have also begun to use our dashboards and insights to develop best practices for textile collection.
The aim is to transform the textile industry in Europe from a linear to a circular model. Circulating textile resources instead of throwing them away mitigates climate impact by reducing waste to landfill and increasing reuse and recycling.
Paving the way to 2025 is a new TEXroad program that aligns the public and private sector and creates a flow of circular textile information for data-driven decision making as Europe prepares for the separate textile collection mandate in 2025.
It offers local governments, post-consumer textile entities and industry consortia working on post-consumer textile collection the opportunity to easily share data, track metrics and gain access to knowledge and insights. We are also refining our data model and validating it for a broader range of exchange applications and network partners.
Over the next three years, we will support the public and private sector in multiple European countries with data to update the post-consumer textile management infrastructure, develop metrics and best practices for the separate collection of post-consumer textiles and release the TEXroad data model for public use.