If sustainability is going to save the world, textiles will have to save sustainability first.
Case in point: The winning startups of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, two of which point to the future of garment production.
Estonia’s Reverse Resources clinched the runner-up prize of 200,000 euros ($234,000) for developing a software platform that maps, measures and traces leftover fabric scraps in a bid to promote circularity in the textile industry.
The company previously came in third in the H&M Foundation’s 2016 Global Change Award, which provided it with 150,000 euros ($176,000), along with mentorship from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Accenture to help scale up its concept.
In the course of its research in Bangladesh and China, Reverse Resources found that an average of 25 percent of resources from clothing production goes to waste. In some cases, it noted, that volume topped 47 percent—much higher than what brands themselves might perceive.
“But commonly, data from factories about leftovers is inaccurate and not comprehensive enough,” Reverse Resources admitted in a white paper published last year. “Most often, only paper-based documentation or Excel sheets are used and inventory is done irregularly or periodically. Even factory management does not often have access to accurate, comparable and live data from production.”
Accurate data, it insists, is key. “Better data from factories would facilitate virtual traceability of resources and digital interconnections throughout supply chains,” it added.
AlgiKnit, which is based in New York City, went home with 100,000 euros ($117,300) for creating a filament from seaweed—kelp, to be more specific—that can be spun into yarn.
Like Reverse Resources, the biomaterials firm has fielded plaudits before, most recently the $25,000 Sustainable Planet award in National Geographic’s Chasing Genius Challenge last September.
Born out of a project at the Fashion Institute of Technology, AlgiKnit seeks to ameliorate the ecological damage caused by the fashion industry by creating “durable yet rapidly degradable” yarns, it wrote on its website.
“We aim to operate in a closed-loop product life cycle, utilizing materials with a significantly lower environmental footprint than conventional textiles, to bring sustainable bio-based textile alternatives to the footwear and apparel industries,” it said.
The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, which is run by the Dutch Postcode Lottery out of Amsterdam, is one of the world’s largest competitions in the field of sustainable entrepreneurship. Its jury, it says, favors entries that can not only reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by a quantifiable amount but are also developed enough to be brought to market within two years. Other winning factors? “Communication potential, courageousness and creativity.”