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Episode 67: Is Textile Recovery A Roadmap to Circularity?

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In this week’s episode of NothingWasted!we chat with Marisa Adler, Senior Consultant at Resource Recycling Systems (RRS). RRS is sustainability and recycling consulting firm that strives to create a world where resources are managed to maximize economic and social benefit while minimizing environmental harm. 

We spoke with Adler about solving the textile waste problem in the U.S., the interesting nexus of plastic and textiles, the role of the fashion industry in circularity and more.

Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:

Waste360: Can you share a little about your work putting together programs for waste generators?

Adler: We work with a lot of clients who either have waste diversion goals or are looking for more ways to incorporate recycled content into the products they make. And we work with both the municipal and private sectors. For municipalities, we really look at their agenda and the political environment they are working within, and we’ll help them craft programs and strategies on creating programs or citing facilities. On the private sector side, we’ll help with sourcing studies and determining plans and tangible metrics for achieving their goals.

Waste360: Can you tell us more about the new white paper you and RRS created on “Textile Recovery in the U.S.: A Roadmap to Circularity”?

Adler: The goal is to really bring people to a common place where we can all understand the current state of textile recovery and create a baseline level of understanding and recognition of the need for scalable systems solutions. 

The paper presents today’s environment, lays out the gaps, and offers some ideas for solutions. What’s really exciting is that there’s a lot of buzz around this now, and people are finally giving attention to the problem of textile waste.

Waste360: What is one major gap or opportunity that you identified?

Adler: There is no current data that tell us the fiber composition and frequency and volume of blend within that waste stream. And that’s the information we need to know in order for textile recyclers—whether mechanical or an advanced recycling technology—to develop, build, and scale their facilities, and prove their feasibility models. So, the white paper lays out that we need to conduct waste characterization studies of the commercial and the residential waste streams, post-industrial, pre-consumer, and post-consumer—to create those foundational data sets that can then be used to build the rest of the system.

Waste360: Is fast fashion the main reason why textile waste is the fastest growing type of waste?

Adler: It’s definitely a contributing factor, but we can’t necessarily blame fast fashion for everything about this problem. The lack of infrastructure is also a key issue. Also, 85 percent of textiles that we generate are disposed of right now. So there’s a long way we could go in consumer behavior for people to reuse or recycle those textiles instead. These underlying factors all have an impact on the high volume of textile waste. 

Read transcript here.


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