BLOG: Textile in the spotlights

The international textile industry is under fire; poor working conditions and the use of hazardous chemicals are affecting the wellbeing of producers, consumers and the environment. In the Netherlands, only one third of the total amount of textiles discarded yearly are reused in new products, while two third of the total ‘disappears’ as waste. This is all unnecessary and negative. The Cradle to Cradle® concept has an optimistic answer to this.

Clothing designed according to the Cradle to Cradle® design philosophy is safe for human contact (including contact with skin, eyes and the respiratory tract) and safe for contact with our environment. It doesn’t ‘disappear’ in a wastebin or incinerator. It’s clothing of which the materials used keep their value as resources and flow in continuous `nutrient’ cycles: biological cycles and technological cycles.

Clothing designed for biological cycles consists of materials that safely wear and tear and/or are produced in the biosphere. Materials such as cotton, hemp and flax are derived from plants and can be reused only a limited number of times, because the fibre shortens in the recycling process.
After the final recycling step, these materials can safely compost and serve as nutrients for new life in the biosphere.

Van Puijenbroek Textiel developed fully recyclable and safe workwear. The result: 100% cotton Cradle to Cradle® workwear named REWORK. Textile service providers Berendsen and Lavans deliver REWORK in a full service concept. Used workwear is cleaned in environmentally friendly ways and, if necessary, repaired or replaced. Replaced workwear is collected and prepared for recycling. Zippers and buttons go into technical cycles to become resources for new products. The cotton can be processed into yarn or, if the fibre is too short, becomes food for new plants.

Clothing designed for technical cycles consist of materials that, after the first use, show little or no wear and can be recovered for recycling and reuse at the same level of quality, or possibly even higher!

PUMA developed for their InCycle collection a Cradle to Cradle® backpack, made out of high quality recyclable polypropylene (PP) suitable for technical cycles. To support take-back and recycling, PUMA launched their ‘Bring Me Back’ program in partnership with I:CO. PUMA has installed recycling bins in their own shops and outlets, where customers can return their used sportswear and accessories. In the near future, the polypropylene from the backpack can be reused in high quality new products. In addition to the backpack, PUMA developed for their InCycle collection a.o. shoes, T-shirts and tracksuits.

The first step in setting up nutrient cycles is to define the quality of materials and their continuous value as resources for new products and/or processes. Next, it is important to know how to recover the materials from products at the end of their respective use phases. EPEA develops Cradle to Cradle® materials passports in cooperation with their partners, that evaluate quality and value and facilitate knowledge sharing across the value chain. These create a great incentive for setting up effective materials recovery systems and logistics, or `take-back’ systems.  In this way, value - once recreated – can forever be retained!                 

EPEA will present its vision on textiles at the Cradle to Cradle® Café on October 24th. You can register via this link.

Sanne van den Dungen (, Textile specialist at EPEA 

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