The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) announced In a press released a collaboration with global apparel company Gap Inc. to develop eco-friendly technology to enable textile recycling. The research project will focus on two main areas: separating mixed-blends of spandex and sustainable decolourisation of fabrics for recycling clothing. This comes amid greater global and regional attention on the environmental footprint of the fashion industry, and suggests that more business innovations in the future will be looking at moving from a linear production system to a more sustainable circular model.
In partnership with Gap Inc., HKRITA will be launching a new research project to come up with solutions for a more sustainable fashion industry using old clothing from the fashion giant. With a two-year time frame to develop new technologies, the research collaboration is to focus on two innovations that will then be available for licensing within the fashion industry.
The textile industry is currently unable to separate spandex in an eco-friendly and circular way from blended fabrics, such as cotton-spandex blend. The research project, which sees HKRITA partnering with creative textile manufacturer Artistic Milliners, is being designed to develop an eco-friendly separation method that removesspandex using bio-solvents. In this way, the separated materials can be re-used by the textile industry.
The research area will also tackle denim decolourisation, a long-standing problem in the textile industry. Currently, common industry practice involves chemical treatment, but this method can harm fabric properties and create negative environmental impacts. This project will also join hands with leading denim manufacturer Arvind Limited to develop a physical method to decolor the denim so that the cotton can be more easily reused or re-dyed.
Speaking on the partnership, president and CEO of Gap Inc. Art Peck said: “Our partnership with HKRITA is an important step to develop new solutions that impact our planet and are deeply important to our customers around the world.”
Realising the environmental impact of mainstream fashion, increasingly eco-conscious shoppers are also looking at manufacturers and retailers to instigate the sea change towards greener production practices and offerings. Especially as younger buyers are attracted to purpose-driven businesses, more companies in Asia are taking steps through upcycling and recycling fabrics. The R Collective, for instance, uses rescued textile off-cuts from luxury mills to create long-lasting garments. Unspun is another company focused on curbing fashion waste, using recycled post-consumer polyester and plastic bottles to manufacture personalised jeans.