Reflow has done this in recent years for a circular textile system in Amsterdam

Over the past two and a half years, the development towards a circular textile system in Amsterdam has gained momentum. Collection containers for textiles were given a makeover. Education packages about reuse were published in schools. Five million disposable gowns for hospital staff will soon be replaced by 50,000 reusable coats. Amsterdam has had its own Swapshop since last year, and from today there is a paper one map available at sustainable store addresses in the city.

All these projects were made possible in part by Reflow, a Europe-wide project that aims to make material flows in major cities as circular as possible. Under the leadership of the Municipality of Amsterdam, Waag, BMA-Techne and Pakhuis de Zwijger, several initiatives were launched in Amsterdam to reduce textile waste, stimulate reuse and develop new production methods. The results were presented on Tuesday evening during the Circular Textile Festival in Pakhuis de Zwijger. FashionUnited attended the evening.

Reflow is working on a circular textile system: “Don’t keep reinventing the wheel”

Despite the fact that the sun is shining outside and the spring weather is mild, the festival is busy. There is therefore a lot to do: in addition to the showcase of Reflow, the documentary will be presented at the festival Full Circle and there is a meetup of the Amsterdam Economic Board. A program has been put together around these events that takes up the entire warehouse. A temporary Swapshop has been set up on the first floor and repair workshops are held. On the top floor there is a sustainable fashion market and visitors are encouraged to philosophize about their contribution to a better fashion system by means of a creative writing assignment.

Visitors to the festival in Pakhuis de Zwijger, busy repairing their garments. Photo: Tess van der Sluis / Pakhuis de Zwijger

At around 7:30 am, most of those present gather in the Great Hall for an overview of what has been achieved under the Reflow banner in recent years. That overview starts with a look at the ‘textile wheel’, a schematic representation of what the textile system should look like. The goal is an endless cycle in which no resources are lost.

The best way to achieve that goal, emphasize Ista Boszhard and Cecilia Raspanti van Waag during their presentation, is not to reinvent the wheel again and again. This costs an unnecessary amount of energy and time. Boszhard: “What we have done at Reflow is to look: what is already happening? Where can we connect people? Which people can we put on stage?”

Building on existing infrastructure

Many of the projects that are highlighted during the evening do not come out of nowhere, but are an extension or combination of existing elements. Take, for example, The Swapshop: that concept already existed in Rotterdam, but with the help of Reflow, a second could be built on Amsterdam’s Haarlemmerdijk and a pilot are developed to trace the way of swapped garments.

The infrastructure of the Stadspas was used by Reflow to help Amsterdam residents with a lower income become more sustainable. Stadspas holders recently received a 40 percent discount on a clothing repair at an affiliated tailor. It is one of the favorite projects of Roosmarie Ruigrok, project manager of Reflow from the Municipality of Amsterdam. “We have put the word sustainability in our mouths in the Dutch language. That also includes the word ‘expensive’,” she noted during a panel discussion. “Circularity and sustainability are therefore experienced as expensive. We really want an inclusive city, in which residents with a somewhat smaller grant can also make use of circularity.” The discount scheme helps with that.

Monique Drent from The Swapshop, Ger Brinks from BMA-Techne and Roosmarie Ruigrok during the Reflow showcase. Photo: Tess van der Sluis / Pakhuis de Zwijger

Keep the conversation going

In addition, Reflow has done a lot to inform residents of the city about the current textile surplus and the possibilities for a circular system. Educational programs and after-school activities have been developed for children around these themes. Livecasts, podcasts and digital repair workshops were broadcast that kept the conversation going even during lockdowns. A national awareness campaign will be launched from the summer.

In addition to initiatives for city residents, Reflow also set up collaborations between the business community, knowledge institutions and governments. That is the specialty of the Amsterdam Economic Board, which has recently organized regular round table discussions with various stakeholders. The result: a number of ‘Green Deals’ in the field of circular textiles, agreements between several parties who agree to work together to change the standards in the industry.

An example is the Denim Deal, in which a coalition of sixty international partners from the denim industry is working towards a standard of at least five percent recycled textiles in all denim garments. Ultimately, that percentage should reach 100. Under a second deal, the collection process in Amsterdam will be better geared to the circular economy, with cleaner containers and a more refined sorting process. A third deal includes the production of circular insulation jackets for healthcare, a partnership between Waternet, Cleanlease, Reblend and Makers Unite. For example, various groups in Amsterdam are taking steps together towards a circular textile economy.

The route to the future

That there are still many steps to be taken, that’s for sure – the presentation in Pakhuis de Zwijger is therefore more of an intermediate station than an end point, as several speakers underlined. However, the road ahead is already being mapped out. Parallel to the projects, Reflow partners were working on a roadmap that should give direction to the future.

The vision document focuses on two spearheads. The first is the creation of a circular aesthetic: an ‘inspiring, circular fashion image’ that can encourage both makers and users to change behavior through beauty and special stories. The second is scaling up high-value recycling. Increasing the collection and processing capacity will reduce the price of post-consumer recycled textiles, the idea is – a pleasant prospect for businesses and private consumers alike. Other ambitions include the elimination of landfill and incineration of textiles, greater transparency in the value chain and a focus on local and demand-driven production. New plans will be made for this in the near future.

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