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How is technology empowering the circular economy?

September 27, 2021

In this episode of Fireside Chat, we talked with Dr. Ashley Holding, the Founder and Principal Consultant of Circuvate, about technology and circular economy. Why is supply chain transparency important to building a circular economy? What is the role of technology in this? And how does circular economy contribute to a sustainable textile and apparel industry? A full transcript follows.

Could you introduce yourself and why you decided to found Circuvate?


Ashley Holding: My name is Ashley Holding and I founded Circulate. Really, the reason I did it was to support the textiles and the fashion industry in this transition to a more circular and sustainable economy. 


What are some challenges brands face today when they're embracing sustainability?


Ashley Holding: For me, it often seems that, you know, a lot of sustainability problems are quite small. They often lack on this internal buy-in. So the support from the upper levels and this kind of reduces the ability that they have to really do anything big enough to have a large effect. I think the other thing is that there is a lot of focus on reporting. Almost like a reporting paralysis where you're focusing on the reporting and things like that, without actually paying enough attention to the interventions you're going to make to change those metrics. 


What’s the first priority brands should implement to drive sustainability in their supply chain?


Ashley Holding: This actually links in quite well with what you guys are doing, which is to establish this transparency in the supply chain. I think the bigger wins actually will be investing in this energy efficiency and low carbon electricity sources in the countries where the goods are made, efficient heating in dyeing plants and things like that. So there's a lot of interventions which can be made, which aren't necessarily to do with just switching to sustainable materials. I think that needs to happen side by side. But I think, you know, first comes in that transparency in that data that you need to have.


How does technology enable the textile industry to achieve a circular economy?

 

Ashley Holding: The transparency and traceability elements are knowing where the materials have come from. Let's say, you know, that they've already been recycled and also maybe embedding information as to what's in the textile. Digital passports, things like that, where we know everything is in the textile that can help recyclers cycle the material over and over again.

What is the sustainable innovation that excites you?


Ashley Holding: The biggest thing that I'm involved in and have been for some time is what we call Fibre to Fibre Recycling. So this idea that, you know, taking waste, textiles or fibers and trying to recycle them into something with equivalent properties is the virgin fibers. So it could be natural fibers, synthetics, but that's really a big topic of ours, of mine. And, you know, it's growing in popularity. So I think for me, this is one of the most exciting things. It’s still a long way off, to be fair. But it's very exciting. 


What are you most optimistic about for the future of the textile and apparel industry?


Ashley Holding: For me, I think the emergence of new business models in terms of like circular models, where I'd say a brand might be looking at some kind of rental system where they own the garment and control the end of life, where they're looking at longevity of the garment, things like that. 

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