Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) is a US-based sustainability and recycling consulting firm with a team composed of strategists, engineers, economists, technical analysts, and communications specialists. They help companies to reduce their waste and increase resource recovery.
Our recent interview with Marisa Adler, a senior consultant with Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), discusses the company’s dedication towards a sustainable future. In her role at RRS, Marisa supports corporate and municipal clients in advancing their waste diversion and recovery goals. Marisa’s interests lie in the role that reuse and recycling efforts play in achieving circularity, while leveraging pre-competitive collaborations to develop real-world solutions. Marisa’s specialty is in textile waste and recovery and she works with collectors, sorter/graders, recyclers, brands, retailers, and municipalities to identify scalable recovery solutions for textiles.
Marisa was also the lead author of RRS’ new white paper on ‘Textile Recovery in the US: a roadmap to circularity.’ In this interview, Marisa shared with us some valuable insights on the next steps to achieve textile recovery, everyone’s role in circularity, and more.
YnFx: What prompted RRS to create a special focus on textile recovery and launch a circularity roadmap?
Adler: RRS has been committed to supporting organizations – of various types - for almost 35 years in diverting as much material from the waste stream as possible to keep them circulating within the value chain. Textiles have received underwhelming attention in the industry to date as a focus for recovery. At the same time, we were astounded by the rate of growth of textiles within the waste stream. It’s by far the fastest-growing material category of waste, having grown 78% between 2000 and 2017, compared to an overall waste stream growth of 10%. This simple statistic, along with our knowledge of the disproportionate environmental impact the fashion industry has on the environment throughout the garment life cycle, laid a clear case for action – and for opportunity.
YnFx: Now that the roadmap is launched, what is the next way forward?
Adler: The roadmap was meant to be a catalyst for action. It was meant to offer everyone a common understanding of the textile recovery landscape, the gaps, and what it will take to achieve circularity for textiles. To move forward, we have to take systematic, intentional, and informed steps to close each one of the gaps – collection, sorting, infrastructure financing, brand demand for reuse and recycled content, to name a few. There are some great organizations out there that are taking steps to recover this valuable material and include recycled content in new products, but we need systemic, collaborative action to make a progressive movement toward a circular economy for textiles.
YnFx: What role would RRS play in this roadmap to textile circularity in the US?
Adler: RRS sees the waste recovery side of circular textiles as the space where we can contribute the most. Specifically, RRS is interested in working with the textiles and apparel industry to solve the question “How can we establish scalable systems to collect and sort textiles efficiently and profitably for best and highest use end markets?” We are currently working on evaluating the economic feasibility of material recovery facilities (MRFs) for textiles and see this as the lynchpin of a future circular economy for textiles. We also see RRS as a connection point to bring together competitors and suppliers and organizations throughout the textile life cycle to solve textile circularity.
YnFx: What recovery infrastructure does RRS currently have to enable circularity in textiles and what are the future plans to expand it?
Adler: RRS started working with municipalities on recycling in the 1980s, and has steadily built upon that core with haulers, material recovery facilities, material processors, manufacturers, brand owners, designers, and more. We pull on our 35 years of experience shaping recycling infrastructure, programs, and policy, relying on our experiences of what works and doesn’t work. That real-world engagement with players at every corner of material life cycles informs our approach to creating wide-scale textile waste recovery.
YnFx: Will supply chain transparency play an important role in this roadmap?
Adler: Absolutely. Transparency is important, especially as it relates to product composition. If we are to scale regenerative textile to textile recycling where fibers are recovered from waste textiles for use as raw feedstocks, we have to know the fiber and chemical composition of the textiles that end up in the waste stream. Brands and others across the supply chain have a critical role in documenting this information and making it easily accessible throughout the product’s entire lifecycle.
YnFx: Are textile recycling and waste recovery cost-effective?
Adler: There is a lot of value left in the textiles and apparel that we throw away every day – plus, we spend a lot of money to landfill it. That said, the industry (brands, manufacturers, retailers, etc.) must be engaged in guiding the development of a textile recovery value chain so that it can be profitable and so that risk is not isolated to any one player.
YnFx: How big a part would consumers play in enabling this change?
Adler: Everyone has a role. Consumers vote with their dollar and consumer behavior as a whole has a significant influence over brand-level decisions. The tides are starting to change as we see more consumer demand for sustainable products. However, I believe change has to be initiated by the textiles and apparel industry first – whether voluntary or as a result of government mandates.
YnFx: Where can people access RRS’ ‘Textile Recovery in the US: a roadmap to circularity’ whitepaper?
Adler: It can be accessed via this link here.
A weekly report covering market and price information on the entire chain of polyester along with online access to daily polyester chain prices.
One-time reports that are issued annually cover the demand and supply trends in individual products including polyester, nylon, acrylic, viscose, and cotton.
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