Fresh off the 2023 Fashion For Good Innovation Conference in Amsterdam, it's evident: the fashion industry is on the brink of a major transformation towards a circular economy.
Among the insights shared by industry pioneers, the need for innovation in sustainable supply-chains and production systems stood out.
Enter enzymatic (biological) recycling of polyester. Here’s how it can support this monumental shift.
Sustainable Manufacturing: As pointed out, sourcing sustainable materials is a challenge. Using enzymes to recycle polyester can create a continual loop of raw materials from waste, aiding the shift to a sustainable production system. The products of enzymatic recycling (monomers of polyester, such as PTA and MEG) can be used as the inputs of the existing polyester production process, requiring no change in today’s system and no loss in material quality after production. These products also have the added benefit of a meaningfully lower carbon footprint than today’s petroleum-derived polyester.
Scaling Textile-to-Textile Recycling: One of the pressing needs of the industry is scaling textile-to-textile recycling. Investors willing to fund demonstration facilities are pivotal in scaling new technologies, as these facilities require meaningful capital investment but serve as crucial proving grounds for innovative technologies. Without such financial support, it's challenging to showcase the viability of large-scale textile recycling, hindering progress towards widespread adoption and the establishment of necessary infrastructure for transforming the industry's approach to sustainability.
Finding Value in Waste: Polyester is one of the most widely used fibers in fashion. By creating a closed-loop system for polyester through enzymatic recycling, we're not just recycling; we're reimagining the existing production system. Protein Evolution can reduce the industry’s reliance on petroleum, while preventing polyester textile waste from ending up in landfills, incinerators, and the environment.
A Shifting Regulatory Environment: With evolving regulations, especially in the US and EU, the enzymatic recycling of polyester can position petrochemical companies and brands ahead of the curve, ensuring compliance and setting an industry benchmark. Enzymatic recycling operates at low temperatures and atmospheric pressure, resulting in far lower environmental footprint compared to chemical recycling technologies which have seen regulatory pushback over the past 18 months.
Embracing innovations like enzymatic recycling not only aligns with the pressing calls to action from the Fashion For Good Innovation Conference, but also cements an organization’s commitment to a sustainable future.