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Municipalities and the Textile Problem

In the linear textile supply chain, raw materials come from the farm, the forest, and the oil field. Growing cotton, raising livestock, logging, and extracting oil from the ground have been done for more than two centuries, and these industries have standardized measurements, statistics and metrics to quantify and trace production and characterize the commodities they produce.

In the circular textile supply chain, raw materials mainly come from what already exists. Citizens and the municipalities where we live provide the raw materials for reuse and recycling loops. Unfortunately, the reverse logistics activities and materials in these circular loops are not measured in a standardized way, and relevant statistics and metrics are scarcely few.

Today, municipalities are in a very high pressure position. They sit at the crossroads of the separate textile collection mandate in 2025 and Extended Producer Responsibility ambitions across the EU, because they are ultimately responsible for the infrastructure that extracts clothing and household textiles from closets to become circular raw materials before they are tossed into the waste bin. EPR is unlikely to remove this responsibility entirely, because in many places, municipalities already manage a sizable part of the textile collection infrastructure. The new Dutch EPR scheme, for example, has already named municipalities as important collection stakeholders.

From an infrastructure development perspective, it is good to have a consistent stakeholder group in this role. However, local public sector employees working in environmental and waste management departments usually have a very long list of responsibilities, very little time to become experts in a single area, and limited budgets to deal with everything coming their way. While they are ultimately responsible for textile management on behalf of the public sector, other streams such as bio-waste, paper, and plastic are a larger percentage of the municipal solid waste stream, and separate collection requirements are already in place or coming sooner than they are for textiles.

Textiles are a complex, monumental task compared to their relative share of the total municipal solid waste stream. If we are going to be successful in circular textiles, we must get the first stages of the new supply chain right. This means collection and sorting must be economically viable without adding excess costs, and the carbon footprint of transport and waste must be minimized. It also means transparency of materials flows for citizens and best practices for municipalities to implement scalable, data-driven textile management infrastructures are absolutely crucial.

Today there is very little guidance for municipalities to manage textiles, even in countries where they have been made a priority. TEXroad launched the Paving the Way to 2025 program to bring municipalities and their collection partners together to develop data-driven best practices for public-private collection partnerships, engage citizens, address challenges with available statistics, and define metrics for post-consumer textile collection.

We believe the future of circular textiles starts right now with responsible, transparent, and data-driven public-private partnerships, and we are paving the way to 2025 and beyond together.

Join our programs in Estonia and the Netherlands, or contact us with your questions.

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