Circular economy – What’s Next?
The circular economy is one of the building blocks of the European Green Deal and Europe’s Agenda for Sustainable Growth. Circulation is also one of the six EU environmental goals included in the EU classification. European institutions have identified textiles as one of the sectors with the highest rate of resource consumption and are pushing to shift to more sustainability. In this context, the textile services sector deserves a closer look.
The total textile services industry in Europe is around €11 billion with a network of thousands of professional laundries of various sizes. Classic full service includes the initial purchase of textiles or apparel and continues with a textile department to wash, repair and supply textile goods on a daily or weekly basis. The European Textile Services Association (established in 1990) represents major multinational operators and national textile service associations.
For decades, textile services has been a product-as-a-service business model that’s fundamental and fundamental to circularity. Product longevity, locality in the supply chain, repair services and reuse options, as well as resource optimization, are already part of Textile Service’s DNA. Today, many other sectors look to textile services with interest and respect.
Leading by example during continuous change
During the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Textile Services has been able to prove that its business model is essential. The local supply chains serving critical industries and the healthcare sector were vital. Many industry sectors (including healthcare, hospitality, construction, and security) have contributed to our well-being and health with clean textiles and clothing.
Industrial laundries have always been a necessity, but for many they are an invisible part of Europe’s infrastructure. Now, more than ever, they are creating economic growth and increasing the number of jobs in Europe.
The industry also relies on a diverse workforce, of different ages, races, and nationalities, all serving different sets of jobs. The textile services industry offers physical work in factories or transportation, key engineering and technical roles, as well as managerial, strategic and creative roles. We pride ourselves on having roles for everyone to grow, learn and develop.
The inherent roundness and sustainability of textile services
The data from laundry operations highlights that when the industry takes stock of its work and looks at ways to improve operations, it makes amazing progress. In ETSA’s latest resource consumption study, which measured more than 400 industrial laundry across Europe, continuous improvement, a clear energy and resource advantage using textile services, was identified.
Moreover, optimized washing procedures suited to the requirements and weight of the textile product can extend the shelf life of the product to 50 wash cycles or more. An integrated repair service with a repair share of between 3 and 7 percent on average, also extends the life cycle of textile garments, thus reducing the extraction of virgin resources across global supply chains. Collecting textiles and reusing worn out clothes also extends the life of every fifth garment to a second life cycle.
What could possibly include this commitment to generalization over buying in our industry? Products designed for longevity and fabrics made for protection, durability and repairability are prerequisites for maximum roundness. Most of the textile products in the industry are made to order, with a high inventory turnover rate; Reducing waste to an absolute minimum and eliminating losses compared to the retail distribution model. It also means shorter, localized and more efficient supply chains, which will be key to tomorrow’s green economy. The textile services industry is also committed to sustainability through logistics through improved routes, trucks and loading, all of which help reduce our collective carbon footprint.
According to the most recent resource consumption survey by ETSA (2021), more than 60 percent of all textile products are recycled. Of end-of-life textiles, 32 percent were turned over for direct reuse in items or fabrics, mainly cutting rags and wipers; 35 percent was given over to other recycling options including shredding of miscellaneous products. New “recycling centers” for industrial textiles will play a very important role. Together, textile manufacturers and the textile service sector will help close the loop and leave as few incinerators as possible. Through all this we will achieve effective reduction in resource consumption as well as carbon emissions. And the options to recycle, reuse, or even remake are good for our members’ businesses.
Customers are at the heart of the future achievements of textile services. Once the industry works more closely with clients on sustainability and circularity, the big milestones can be crossed. However, there are some challenges that need to be addressed.
- Work closely with the textile industry and chemicals to “detoxify” all (dyed) textiles.
- Collaborate with designers and producers who will create recycled products from expired textiles.
- Further optimizing energy consumption and introducing smarter logistics models and reverse logistics models.
Today, we can all become agents of change and we must all understand the importance of becoming more circular. Closing the link between purchase and end-of-life of textile products will be at the heart of the recycling process. The textile service industry does not only deal with hot spots at the beginning of the value chain. The industry runs both ends. Textiles are end-of-life in their hands, available in pre-labeled sizes and can be efficiently supplied to various channels for recycling, upcycling or second life cycle.
In essence, circularity is where responsible industry is asked to invest its commitment in the years to come and where we expect and strongly encourage the EU Commission to be fully supportive.
ETSA’s response to green is a digital makeover
ETSA shares a huge responsibility for what the future of textile services must bring, to the economy and society; And in my role as President of the European Textile Services Association, that is certainly true and more relevant now than ever.
The textile services sector can offer strong implications for other sectors seeking to become more circular and sustainable. With ETSA receiving the role of Climate Ambassador from the EU Commission since 2021, being circular and sustainable means looking to the future, in a world that often looks to the fastest and most appropriate outcome rather than the bigger picture.