Specialty Fabrics Review February 2020 - 50

FOCUS

ADVANCED TEXTILES

The range of advanced and
industrial textiles, such
as these from Milliken &
Co., show the breadth of
industries and challenges that
companies face in formulating
an agenda for sustainability.
Photo: Marie O'Mahony.

Textiles and the
circular economy
The evolution of sustainable practices in today's industry.
BY MARIE O'MAHONY

T
Customized and smart
Ford Europe (Ford Motor Co.) is
introducing 3D knitting technology to
produce seamless seat covers and is
exploring the opportunity for customers
to design their own seat covers and add
custom touches such as pockets and
padding. The technology also enables
the use of smart textiles with built-in
connectivity and integrated heating,
controls for doors and windows;
wireless smartphone charging; and
sensors to monitor the driver's health.
Photo: Ford Europe.

50 REVIEW FEBRUARY 2020

he story of sustainability in the textile industry has grown and changed, particularly
in the last decade. The concept of "circularity" is now driving sustainability across the
materials sector. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, "A circular economy is
based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials
in use, and regenerating natural systems."
Adherence to sustainable practices along the value chain is the key to achieving full circularity.
For some industries, this is relatively linear with a clear route to achieving this goal, but advanced
textiles sectors are not so straightforward, with various stages and different data in "silos."
In the apparel sector, the consumer is demanding greater transparency from brands, in large
part because the media has exposed harmful practices, including the impact of fast fashion
on the environment and the behavior known as greenwashing, in which a company gives
false or misleading information about the environmental soundness of its products. Tragedies
such as the Rana Plaza factory fire in Bangladesh in April 2013, which resulted in the loss of
more than a thousand lives, have also been a call to action.
While the advanced and industrial sectors also have consumer-driven demand for change,
it is, in general, not so polarized. This is presenting a unique opportunity to introduce
incremental change building toward full circularity. The rollout of legislation, such as the
European single-use plastics directive and California's Proposition 65, reminds the industry
that it cannot afford to sit back and not participate.
SUCCESS STORIES
Designing out waste and polluting practices makes good environmental and economic sense.
Shifting patterns of global production, new processes, environmental standards and impact
data ensure that companies have to be vigilant and informed. At the INDA, Association of
the Nonwovens Fabric Industry, 2018 Research, Innovation & Science for Engineered Fabrics
(RISEĀ®) conference, held just four months after the European single-use plastics directive,
the industry was not only prepared but energized by the move. Companies such as Shaw
Industries Group Inc., headquartered in Dalton, Ga., with a long-standing reputation for
sustainable carpet products and a business model around service, were actively looking for
ways to take environmental responsibility to the next level.



Specialty Fabrics Review February 2020

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