Danish fashion retailer Bestseller is going to produce new clothes from its own production waste in two Bangladeshi factories.
To this end, the company is piloting two major circularity projects by teaming up with GMS Composite Knitting, Bestseller's biggest jersey supplier in Bangladesh, and Cyclo Recycled Fibres, one of the major recycling spinning mills.
GMS will supply the cutting waste produced while making Bestseller's apparels to Cyclo. Then, Cyclo will recycle the waste to produce yarn. This yarn will be sent back to GMS, which will use it to make Bestseller's clothes.
Producing new apparels from cutting waste creates a valuable closed-loop system in a fully transparent supply chain, Bestseller said. Textile waste is most often shipped back and forth in the process of becoming new recycled yarn and fabrics.
Through this partnership with the Bangladeshi factories, the first collections made from its own waste will be ready in spring 2022, Bestseller says on its website.
"We are working locally in Bangladesh with one of our big, long-standing suppliers to ensure our production waste is used within a closed-loop system in a fully transparent supply chain. In short, this means we are collecting and recycling our own brands' cutting waste into new styles," said Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, sustainable materials and innovation manager at Bestseller.
The Nordic company said cotton is ideal for circular projects and that is why it saw Bangladesh as an "obvious" location because a significant amount of its overall production is based here, with a particular emphasis on cotton.
"We want to explore how we can keep the cotton waste in Bangladesh and set up workable circularity systems there. Keeping the waste in Bangladesh, even with the same supplier, benefits both economic and environmental perspectives, which we value immensely," says Jørgensen.
"We have started to produce apparels with recycled yarn from last 2.5 years ago, and we are sourcing that from some spinning in Bangladesh – and Cyclo is one of them," GMS Composite Knitting Industry's Executive Director Golam Mustafa told The Business Standard.
That quantity of recycling yarn depends on the demand of buyers, he added.
"Through the new partnership with Bestseller, we will now provide cutting waste of Bestseller products with segregated shades to Cyclo, then they will recycle that to make yarns," he added.
"We have done a pilot project with product development. Now we are waiting for commercial operations," Golam Mustafa said.
GMS Composite Knitting produces about 6 million pieces of apparel items in a month. Of this quantity, 50% goes to the Danish buyer.
"Currently, we are producing recycled apparels at nearly 20% of our capacity. We can increase our capacity, but it depends on buyers' demands," said the GMS executive director.
GMS Composite Knitting has employed 20,000 people at its two factories, one of which is certified by the US green building council.
The group's annual turnover was about $170 million in 2019 and it expected a turnover of $200 million in 2020, said Golam Mustafa, adding that the pandemic's effect on the factory might influence the figure.
To develop the new recycled yarns, Bestseller is collaborating with Cyclo, a Bangladeshi recycled cotton fibre firm, on a mission to responsibly recycle the hundreds of tonnes of cotton fabric discarded daily as cutting waste.
By eliminating the dyeing process, Cyclo's mechanical recycling process greatly reduces the amount of water, energy, chemicals, and carbon emissions.
"Mechanically recycling fabric scraps to make fibre has been around for a long time. However, this fibre has traditionally been downcycled and the resulting yarn has been written off as too 'low-quality' for the fashion industry. Our goal was to prove to the world that there is a tremendous opportunity to upcycle these fibres back into fashion," said Mustafain Munir, director of Cyclo.
Recently, Global Fashion Agenda launched the Circular Fashion Partnerships (CFP), an initiative that Bestseller joined at the initial phase. While the collaboration with Cyclo and GMS focuses on utilising waste immediately and implementing it directly in future collections, the CFP works on a more structural level.
With an end goal to succeed in implementing effective waste stream structures, the CFP works as a natural extension of Bestseller's current efforts.
"Our ultimate ambition is to become circular by design," says Jørgensen.
"So far, the fashion industry has lacked the scalability possibilities and the innovations to reach those goals, but at Bestseller, we are working hard and investing heavily to get there as soon as possible."