Can Brands Really Be Circular?
We see many circular initiatives out there, but are brands really running on circular business models? What does a circular business actually look like? The word 'circular' is slapped on products that have the potential to be recycled but might not have logistics in place to make that happen. So, the question I always ask first is: is something circular if it ends with you? I don't think so! With everyone hopping on their circularity journey now, who actually has the wheels in motion? First off, let's go through the different approaches to circular products and their end of life:
IS A MUST in circular products! This can look like a brand sending you an airway bill for you to ship back for unwanted pieces or drop-off locations in store.
Brands that offer a repair service are encouraging you to use your item as long as physically possible. This is one of the most incredible things a brand can do to promote mindful consumption and consumer activism!
Once something can no longer be repaired, this is your chance to get creative and turn that unwanted item into something of higher value. Think old jeans turned into a chic denim trench.
↳ RESALE & RENTAL:
We know the second-hand market is booming, which is why so many brands are experimenting with resale to keep items in use. But, resale isn't all good. The unintended consequences might be encouraging more consumption due to lower prices. But, according to BoF, we will see resale making a real positive change once it has surpassed the majority of clothing sales.
Rental is very similar! In the fight to keep things in use forever, some studies have shown that rental might not be as great as it seems. However, the data out there is still very new and keeping things out of landfills might indeed outweigh the negatives of all the transportation and garment care.
These well-intentioned actions have unintended consequences, but that's the case half the time when you're trying new things. You still have to try!
Downcycling is the opposite of upcycling. This is when a garment has come to the very end of its use and cannot be repaired or made into something new anymore. Usually, textiles will be turned into rags or shredded into filling for mattresses or insulation.
You might be more familiar with how recycling works based on how some cities take our cans, paper, and plastic to be converted into reusable material. The same goes for textiles. We recycle textiles when they have reached the end of their entire life to be spun into new yarns for new clothes. One day, I hope to see textile recycling as common as paper recycling!
While the above are a few different approaches to circularity, I am a firm believer that keeping things as local as possible is the best thing we can do, so hopefully, we see more local textile recycling facilities popping up in every region rather than having to ship our discarded goods to a faraway land! Emissions and the danger of creating another out of sight out of mind mentality are far too high if we continue down that road.
SO, WHO ARE THE BRANDS I THINK ARE DOING CIRCULARITY WELL, AND WHAT APPROACH ARE THEY USING?
There is no one way of doing things, and I admire these top 5 circular denim brands that are taking action and experimenting rather than doing nothing at all. At the end of the day, I believe circularity is about taking responsibility for what you produce and making sure it has a forever life.
"GETTING MORE USE OUT OF EXISTING PRODUCTS IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST MOVE WE CAN MAKE TOWARD A MORE CIRCULAR AND SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN," SAYS ANDY RUBEN, FOUNDER AND C.E.O. OF TROVE.
So before you buy into a "circular" brand, make sure they have what it takes to close the loop! 🔁
Until next time friends, always be curious and stay diligent! 😋