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Episode 66: Sustainable Fashion Using Food Waste

In our latest episode of NothingWasted!we chat with Isaac Nichelson, CEO & co-founder of Circular Systems. Circular Systems is a materials science company focused on the development of innovative circular and regenerative technologies, transforming waste into valuable fiber, yarn and textile fabrics for the fashion industry.

We spoke with Nichelson about the sustainable imperative in fashion, why we need to move beyond zero waste, and more.

Here are some highlights from the discussion:

Waste360: Please tell us about Circular Systems.

Nichelson: We design solutions, and we like to say that together—meaning together with our global community, we are the solution. The idea is really about creating resource efficiency and regenerative impact. This is striving for something well beyond zero impact, which has been the high bar of the sustainability movement. Zero impact is just a milestone en route to beneficial impact, which is really what we need to be achieving as a species in our habitat. Homeostasis zero might be fine if we hadn’t caused so much damage already, but we’re at a point where we have to fix things for quite a while before zero impact is enough. 

Waste360: What are some of the specific ways you work to create this regenerative impact?

Nichelson: We have three technology platforms designed to work together; synergistic technology. The first being the Agraloop, a closed-loop bio-refinery designed to convert food-crop waste into high-value textile and other industrial products while creating regenerative impact in that same community where it operates. Then there’s Texloop, which is the circularity of textile waste and pre- and post-consumer waste. So, taking those waste streams and breaking them down to fiber and building them back up again into new yarns and fabrics and useful products. And then we have Orbital Hybrid Yarns, a new spinning technology that allows us to use shorter or lower-quality recycled fibers and turn them into higher-quality and higher-performing materials, meeting or exceeding the performance of the most technical virgin materials. 

Waste360: What types of brands are you working with now?

Nichelson: Currently our biggest customers are Converse and the H&M Group. H&M is one of the most committed companies in our industry to social and environmental change, and they are really putting a ton of support into the sector. And here in California we are working with Outerknown, a very sustainable-focused brand in the surf industry. As well as with the usual suspects in our space like Patagonia, Levi’s…we’re on the long arc of development with them and a whole host of other niche brands.

Read transcript here.


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