5 recommendations for the jeans’ industry to go circular

21 February 2018

How does a global industry become circular? An ISWA (International Solid Waste Association) project team has looked into the case of the jeans industry to identify what it takes.


Björn Appelqvist

Head of Department, Waste Management and Site Solutions
T: +45 51612 026

By Charlotte Ankerstjerne

What does it really take to make the production and consumption patterns of today more circular? Questions like this inspired the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) to develop case studies of two very different industries: designer jeans and plastic packaging. The studies were done in collaboration with consultancy company Ramboll and led by Björn Appelqvist, Department Manager in Environment & Health, Ramboll. 

“The goal of these studies has been to dive into depth with two real-life cases, so that we in collaboration across the value chain could give industry players tangible recommendations on how to be more circular”, says Björn, Department Manager in Ramboll and ISWA’s Project Lead on the two case studies. 

Project partners 

The project team behind the jeans case study consists of representatives from Tommen Gram, G-Star, World Perfect, Design School Kolding, NVRD, DAKOFA, the City of Oslo, ISWA and Ramboll.  

Co-creating a circular jeans production

Going from linear to circular requires the involvement of all parties in the value chain. Therefore, the ISWA project group gathered manufacturers, designers and waste managers around the case of jeans. The outcome of these meetings is a publication, which holds five overall recommendations for the jeans’ industry players who want to go circular. Furthermore, the ISWA project group has matched these recommendations with five commitments from the waste management sector that will support this movement. 

5 recommendations for the jeans industry to go circular

1) Design for reuse and recycling

Use mono-material textiles in garments where possible, as it makes it easier to produce high-quality recycled textiles. Mixed-material textiles are difficult to recycle and often end in down-cycled applications. Avoid low quality garments, as these encourage disposal and replacement rather than repair and reuse. Designers are in a position to improve the sustainability and recyclability of textiles.

2) Rethink resources and consider secondary raw materials

Collaborate across the industry. By working together, brands can collect more used textile and create economies of scale as well as increased transparency. Design to exploit the qualities of recycled textiles, thereby making the materials part of the design story.

3) Cooperate throughout the value chain

Talk with suppliers, and their suppliers. Don’t be afraid to make demands. Talk to consumers and procurers to drive demand through education and opportunity. The textile value chain is long and many of its traditional practices are highly resistant to change. Communication takes place mostly between immediate partners. This limits the opportunities for improvement, innovation and cooperation. At the other end, boosting demand for recycled textiles requires communication and cooperation with procurers and consumers.

4) Keep an open mind for innovation

Actively seek technology and logistic solutions to improve material recovery. Be open to alternative business models and opportunities. New technologies provide better quality yarn and higher quality textiles, while new business models can challenge ideas of ownership and cost. Remember that sustainability is disruptive by nature.

5) Partner up with the waste management sector

Help the waste management sector increase textile collection from household waste. Too much useful textile ends up as waste, rather than in the recycling system. Provide information about proper disposal of your products. Involve the waste management sector in your product development - they know what happens at the other end of the value chain. 

Read the full publication about the jeans industry case or the plastic packaging case.

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