Name: Pure Waste Textiles
Founders: Hannes Bengs, Anders Bengs, Lauri Köngäs-Eskandari, Jukka Pesola and Maela Mandelli
Industry: Sustainable fabrics and clothing
Main products: Recycled fabrics and clothes
Sustainability: Pure Waste Textiles provides recycled fabrics and clothes to consumers, other clothing labels, and retailers
One of the most important issues related to the circular economy is making sure that we use existing resources as efficiently as possible. In fact, waste should be completely designed out of our products and production systems. This is where a company like Pure Waste Textiles can help.
Pure Waste Textiles is a clothing company that produces 100% recycled fabrics and clothes. This is how Pure Waste Textiles works: the company buys leftover materials and fabrics that would normally go to waste from textile manufacturers, sorts the waste by color, tears the fabric apart into raw cotton, spins the cotton into yarns and finally turn the yarns into usable textiles. The end product is a 100% recycled and high quality textile that would have normally been disposed as waste. Furthermore, because the company sorts the waste by color, no extra dyeing is required during the process.
Pure Waste Textiles was founded after the owners of the Finnish ecological clothing label, Costo, began searching the markets for cotton that would be 100% recycled. The Costo label had previously been using surplus materials from other clothing manufacturers in its products, but in 2010 the company wanted to take things up a notch by creating a clothing line out of completely recycled fabrics. Using recycled fabrics would not only be a more ethical choice, but it would also make more business sense, as it would allow the company to provide a steadier stream of supply for its retailer clients. However, according to one of the founders, Hannes Bengs, the task of finding 100% recycled fabrics proved difficult:
“Back then we started thinking about using completely recycled textiles and so we began looking for fabrics that would be 100% recycled. To our surprise, we couldn’t find any suppliers for recycled fabrics. We then got excited and realized that we could start supplying recycled textiles ourselves.”
The company set to work straight away and began creating prototypes and test batches, which finally lead to the founding of Pure Waste Textiles in 2013. Potential suppliers were found from China and India, and after long negotiations, the company was able to form partnerships with local manufacturers.
“We had Jukka Pesola working with us, who had 15 years of experience from doing trade in Asia. He knew about the local manufacturers, factories and recycling centers. The technology for producing recycled textiles was actually in place, it just hadn’t been used for creating 100% recycled fabrics before”, says Bengs.
Although the company had the benefit of using existing contacts, finding a partner wasn’t easy. The company needed to prove that producing completely recycled textiles would actually work. Bengs elaborates:
“The biggest challenge was that no one wanted to produce anything for us at the beginning. They were mostly afraid that using recycled fabrics would break their machines. After wrestling with this issue for some time, we were able to produce a few working test batches and then things finally took off.”
Pure Waste Textiles wants to create a positive change in the clothing industry by making ecologically produced clothes and textiles more available to consumers. According to Bengs, the biggest sustainability issues in the clothing industry are related to quality and time.
“If a company is selling a t-shirt with a 5 or 10 euro price tag, it is cutting costs in either quality, materials or labor. It just isn’t possible to produce a quality shirt for 5 euros. Another major issue is the existence of fast fashion. Having a product go out of fashion in six months is simply not sustainable.”
The main problem behind both issues is that the externalities, such as carbon emissions, destruction of habitat, or social issues that are caused by cheap manufacturing are not paid by the companies themselves, but by local communities, national governments, or by future generations. If the full cost of producing a t-shirt or a pair of jeans was paid by the companies, we would most likely have very different clothes prices.
In the future, Pure Waste Textiles wants to form partnerships with big clothing manufacturers and labels, where Pure Waste would provide the fabrics and the manufacturer would do the rest. The company’s vision is that when people think of recycled, high quality, and ethical clothing, they will think of Pure Waste Textiles, similar to how people think of Gore-Tex when it comes to dry and water-proof clothes.
Today Pure Waste Textiles already has competition in the recycled fabrics markets. For example, Eco-fi, a US company, sells polyester fiber made from post-consumer plastic bottles, while Brentano, also from the US, offers post-consumer recycled polyester fabrics.
Business Model: Recovery and Recycling
Value proposition: We make 100% recycled, premium quality, and sustainably produced yarns and fabrics.
Main customers: Clothing brands and manufacturers.
Revenue generation logic: The business model is based on selling fabrics and yarns to clothing manufacturers and brands. However, in 2015 the company’s main cash flow still came from selling t-shirts to companies and individual consumers.
According to Accenture’s business model framework, Pure Waste Textiles has a Recovery and Recycling business model. According to Accenture (2014), the model enables companies to eliminate material leakage and is a good fit for companies or industries that produce large volumes of by-product. In this case, Pure Waste Textiles helps clothing manufacturers to eliminate waste from the clothing manufacturing process by turning by-product into usable fabrics.
Accenture’s (2014) 5 Business Models for a Circular Economy.
While the manufacturing processes and technologies used to create fabrics might be complex and sophisticated, the business model of Pure Waste Textiles is relatively simple. The company buys by-products from manufacturers, turns them into usable fabrics or clothes and sells them forward.
What’s particularly interesting about Pure Waste Textiles and its business model is the scale of the unused resources that the company is trying to tap into. According to Pure Waste Textiles, 10-15% of the produce from clothing manufacturing is usually wasted, which only a few companies have so far been able to take advantage of. If that 10-15% could be turned into a profitable business, we could see a great rise in material use efficiency in the clothing industry.
Moreover, while reducing the waste and by-products from industrial processes is an important issue in itself, there are other even bigger opportunities for improvement to explore. What if we were able to recycle all clothes – not just the pre-consumer fabrics? What industries, what companies and how many circular economy jobs could we see emerge when we start exploring such opportunities? Pioneering companies like Pure Waste Textiles often pave the way to finding other places where innovative business models and technologies could be used to create circular economy businesses.
And most importantly, while advanced technologies will be needed in the future to create a circular economy, Pure Waste was able to rely on existing technologies in creating its circular business model. Sometimes it’s not better technology that we need, but better purposes for using our technologies.