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Textiles – from waste to resource by 2030

The demand for fibres is expected to increase by 150 percent by 2050. This type of increase is not sustainable in the long term, as most of the fibres today are synthetic and come from fossil-based raw materials and water-intensive cotton. This IVA report focuses on the challenges in the textile sector – and on possible pathways forward.

Between the end of 2019 and spring 2020, the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA) is publishing far-reaching action plans for increased resource effectiveness in five resource-intensive areas: plastics mobility, textiles, facilities and food. Now a new report is being released focusing on how the textile sector can be more circular and resource-smart.

“Textiles need to be more resource-efficient – from the design phase to production, warehouse management, sales, use and back to reuse and recycling,” says Cecilia Tall, Chair of the project’s Textile work group and Secretary General of TEKO.

IVA highlights the following actions in order to make the sector more sustainable:

  • An international standard and a better definition are needed of what sustainable textiles actually are. The industry must also develop a framework for how different materials and products are to be managed in the final phase of their life cycle.
  • To meet the future increased global demand, we need “material brokers” to identify flows of materials for reuse in textile production. Residual flows could come from the plastics, forest, food, engineering, construction and automotive industries, among others.
  • New innovative business models based on reuse, renting and subscriptions for clothes and textiles need to be scaled up. To kick-start the transition, tax relief could be provided for these – and for producing textiles from sustainable recycled materials. The public sector should take the lead to support change.
  • A resource credit council for companies in the circular economy could be established to offer guarantees and beneficial loans. Industrial parks could be established to enable new, Swedish sustainable companies to grow and create new jobs.

These conclusions were drawn within the IVA project Resource Effectiveness and the Circular Economy, the purpose of which has been to make Sweden more competitive in a future with finite resources in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The project has established platforms for dialogue between actors in the public and private sectors and academia who have produced proposals in various areas. The author of the new report is sub-project manager Elin Larsson.

“The project’s vision is for Sweden to be the leading nation as a resource-effective, circular society,” says Caroline Ankarcrona, Project Manager at IVA.

Textiles – from waste to resource by 2030