Many well-resourced communities are developing recycling-based policies for dealing with textile waste that don’t factor in biocompatibility, biosphere-scale impacts, and unintended consequences in distant regions.
This project will enable communities to manage their textile waste locally in ways that transform it into a useful feedstock.
In partnership with the Metabolic Institute and HKRITA, we are conducting a landscape analysis of commercially-ready decomposition technologies. We will then pilot a few diverse alternatives for decomposition of textile waste in a major European city, working with local businesses, communities, and government to develop detailed strategic plans for future expansion. Lessons learned will be shared globally through this website and regional partners like Accelerating Circularity and California Product Stewardship Council.
There is a need for effective low tech/low cost solutions that work under existing conditions without extensive new infrastructure. Decomposition offers many communities worldwide an opportunity to leapfrog towards more regenerative solutions.
Together with The OR Foundation, regional organizations, and leading scientists at the University of Ghana and in the US, we are analyzing the nature of the textile contamination near Kantamanto Market in Accra. We will then work with the community around Kantamanto Market to support safe decomposition of the high volumes of unusable clothing that arrives there daily while identifying new entrepreneurial opportunities around decomposition.
By fully understanding the breakdown of natural and synthetic materials in real-world conditions, we can inspire textile designers to create future materials that don’t become pollution when they inevitably leak.
Working with Yale University, we are digging deep into every aspect of decomposition of both natural and synthetic materials. We are asking “How does nature decompose?” to inform both decomposition technologies and the development of future materials. Together with the team at the Yale Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering we are working to expand and ameliorate existing tests for biodegradation and beginning to identify methods to predict and enhance safe biodegradation of escaped fibers without reducing performance.
Throughout the fashion and textiles industries, many assume that we can’t manage without petroleum-based polyester; the best our "green strategies" can do is get better at recovering and recycling it. We are confident that human ingenuity can do a lot better than that. Our not-so-secret proposition is this: let’s harness the same forces that helped make our planet so hospitable to life the first time: bacteria, enzymes, mycelium, and algae to build a truly biocompatible industry. This is what we’re piloting.
We know not everyone is on board with the idea of decomposition just yet, but everyone does recognize that the current system isn’t working. This project is designed to help overcome key barriers to making the industry more biocompatible. Communicating the value and viability of this vision is critical the success of this project and the long term health of the planet. We will be documenting our journey through photos and video, showing what will likely be many failures but a few critical and cheer-worthy successes. Throughout the process, we will highlight human stories of social and environmental justice for those on the ground. All of the lessons learned and visuals that we collect will help us tell this story far and wide, in close collaboration with strategic media partners. If you would like to get involved in this aspect of the project, please contact us.Support this project
The Laudes Foundation has provided catalytic funding for this ambitious project.