Enschede Textielstad and Twente Milieu

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The Netherlands

The Twente region in the eastern Netherlands has the ambitious goal of significantly increasing the amount of household textile waste that is separately collected in order to keep it from ending up as waste.

The aim is to use these collected textiles to establish local supplies of both mechanically recycled and chemically recycled textile fibres by 2022 and 2025 respectively.

TexPlus is the public-private collaborative project tasked with making these goals a reality by bringing together the different organisations and businesses involved in developing these new post-consumer textile waste markets, from sorters, and recyclers to manufacturers.

Bas Assink is from Twente Milieu, the municipal waste collector in the region: “In Twente we currently collect textiles in street containers and we bring them to the sorting plant. Two huge problems are the low quality of the collected textiles as well as the other waste such as food and glass that ends up alongside the textile waste. In the future we would like a system where textile bins are not located beside other bins.

“It’s difficult to find buyers for sorted textiles so we need to create our own new market for high quality recycling. At the moment, the reality is that textiles that can’t be re-used end up being sold outside our region. Ideally in the future we will be able to keep everything in Twente.”

One of the TexPlus partners is Enschede Textielstad, an industrial weaving mill founded by Annemieke Koster seven years ago in Enschede, a town in the Twente region with a rich textile heritage. The mill does not keep stock, it produces on-demand fabrics for both the fashion and upholstery markets, woven using locally sourced recycled fibres and yarns which are blended with virgin fibres.

Annemieke Koster says: “We are housed in the last remaining textile factory in Enschede and our goal is to make the most sustainable textile for the application that it is designed to be used for. Currently we use, next to post-consumer recycled denim and recycled workwear, a lot of yarns spun from post-production material which means clipping waste from the fast fashion industry. Our ultimate aim is to replace all fibres spun from this type of pre-consumer industry waste with the collected recycled waste from consumers in the Twente region.”

Championing local production and local supply chains is at the heart of the TexPlus collaboration, and at Enschede Textielstad they have set up ‘Textile cafes’: meet-ups to help local entrepreneurs, buyers, wholesalers and universities to cooperate, in particular when it comes to safeguarding the knowledge and skills of an ageing workforce. Annemieke Koster explains: “There are a lot of entrepreneurs that face difficulties in the region. Many staff are in their late fifties or sixties. What are we going to do when those people retire? We need to educate people now to keep that knowledge alive. Educating students as to how a loom works - that is what sparks innovation.

Bas Assink from Twente Milieu: “We will succeed if we can make even a small part of the whole global textile industry more sustainable by better reusing our region’s textile waste and at the same time enriching our communities by providing jobs. And it all starts with how we all deal with our rubbish!