ReBlend: “Recycling textiles will only buy us time to change our relationship with clothes”

In an interview with Anita de Wit, she discusses how the extension of clothing lifespan can reduce our carbon footprint by up to 30% and some of the challenges associated with integrating a cradle to cradle concept in fashion. 

ReBlend is a company based in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, that spins new yarn out of old clothing. 

The company also adopts a social employment scheme where they hire those who struggle to find work in the normal market. 

Business as a campaign

Anita told CleanTech News that “I started ReBlend to create a movement and enable the transition to circular textiles. 

We burn so much old textile material, and they consumed a great deal of water to produce. I wanted to extend its lifespan in hopes to reduce textile environmental footprint.”

Studies have shown that by extending the use of clothing by nine months, it reduces production carbon footprint by 30%. The fashion industry is also responsible for an alarming 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions. 

“But the market is still very small today, so it’s hard to create an effective business model. With a comparatively smaller demand, we can’t produce at the same cost as virgin textiles.”

Local sourcing is beneficial, but are consumers willing to pay?  

“As of now, most of our denim is made in Asia. If we create circular ones, we will want to manufacture those locally. 

But that also means higher cost, and the end-consumer has to be willing to pay for that premium. Up till now, I think it’s still a trial and error market.” 

Textiles have a finite lifetime 

“ReBlend focuses on the blending of materials, like the combination of cotton and polyester. We use a mechanical recycling method, where we make new fibre from this combination of both materials. 

But we can’t do this forever, textiles can only be recycled 2-3 times before its end of life, so essentially what we are doing is to delay that.”

Consumers may not be ready for recycled textiles

“As I mentioned, there has to be enough demand to get past the challenges of scale.

But because of the small demand, only certain colours or sizes can be produced to balance with economic interests. 

It becomes a vicious cycle because the limited choices also create less demand, and it’s difficult to increase that with such inertia.

But they might be willing to pay more as long as they can’t tell the difference  

Anita told CleanTech News that “Slowly, more are willing to pay. But the majority would only do so as long as it’s the same product. 

For example, it’s challenging to provide the same vast variety of colour available in the mainstream market.”

“Recycling textiles will only buy us time to change our relationship with clothes”

If every person bought a single piece of second-handed clothing instead of new in a year, the carbon emissions offset would be equivalent to removing half a million cars off the road for a year.

“People like the story of having a new material with no disadvantages at all. But it is a give and take, it just depends on what businesses choose to value.

There has been a lot of innovation in better materials, but there is no easy answer because it all comes with a different set of pros and cons. In the end, recycling textiles is but a temporary solution to buy us time as we look for ways to make the industry better.” 

Esther Chan

Esther is a Senior Writer at CleanTech News. Esther first discovered cleantech when in Italy, she worked with companies to integrate existing business practises with new sustainability initiatives. Her passion for environmental protection has grown much since. Through her writing, she aims to shine a light on how corporations, start-ups, and individuals alike can champion sustainability through clean technology. With her grounding in science, she looks to bridge the gap between academia and industry practise in clean technology with her focus on tech innovation and has even founded a startup herself.