Cooperation among actors working in the field of the collection, sorting, further refinement, and circular economy business models of end-of-life textiles is needed to develop circular economy business models in Finland. In Telaketju, a springboard towards the common goals is built by increasing the level of knowledge and competence of the project partners, and by enhancing business opportunities in the field.
Turku University of Applied Sciences interviewed the 13 companies participating in the Telaketju Tekes project to get an impression of the starting point of companies and about their expectations regarding to the project. The scope of the interviews was to find out what kind of circular economy work the participating companies are doing and their knowledge of textile recycling terminology and the handling of raw material.
Common terminology to facilitate communication
According to the interviews, there are significant differences in the terminology knowledge between companies. The terminology of textile recycling is mainly familiar to the companies within their own territories. The actors feel the lack of a joint terminology makes communication difficult and the unclarity of the terminologies can cause communication difficulties between companies which operate in different ends of the textile recycling chain.
Many companies emphasized in their answers the importance of a common lexicon, which would clarify the confusion in the terminology and would facilitate the operation in companies. In the Finnish terminology guide there would be a lexicon which is used in the textile industry, along with explanations and synonyms. The Finnish Environment Institute has compiled a lexicon of the terminology used in textile recycling, which should dispel some of the confusion among different actors in the field.
In addition to the clarification of the terminology, the companies want more information about the demands and certifications for the use of recycled materials in textile industry. Many are also interested in issues related to legislation. The studies and reports made in Telaketju can support the companies’ operations and expand their circular economy competence.
Efficient recycling of end-of-life textiles requires a cohesive network
According to the interviews collecting and sorting of textiles are considered the most critical stages of the whole textile sorting chain. Before profitable and continuous business can be born, raw material must be continuously available at a constant quality, which can be a challenge in a country the size of Finland. Creating a connected collecting network is important to be able to collect post-consumer textile waste efficiently.
Even though the improved economic situation adds customer numbers and increases turnover, investment reluctance is still regarded one of the biggest threats to textile recycling. The participants hope for concrete and down-to-earth results from the Telaketju project, which could be easily adapted to the companies’ operations. It is also hoped that the project would proceed on a quick schedule because the start-up of similar projects in the neighboring countries could weaken the business opportunities of Finnish companies.
A desire to work together came up in every interview. Even though the companies come to the Telaketju project from different starting points, the end-goal is the same for everybody: together they want to build a working textile sorting chain, which would utilize end-of-life textiles in a closed loop system.
Telaketju is divided into two different entities, one being the pilot project financed by the Ministry of the Environment and the other being the project financed by Tekes. In the Tekes part of the project, the objectives are networking between companies, solidifying quality criteria in the field and demonstrating the methods for utilizing different textile fractions. One objective is to expand the circular economy competence: increasing the level of knowledge and competence of the project partners, enhancing business conditions and improving the operating environment.