A report released today by Reverse Resources, a company funded with a Global Change Award grant from H&M Foundation, claims that as much as 25% of raw materials are wasted during garment production while up to 47% of the total textile use by apparel suppliers is wasted. This process waste contributes to environmental and economic problems, the report says, instead of being used to create new business opportunities in the supply chain.

The linear business models in the textile supply chain mean there is no motive for textile factories to take part in recycling projects, since the factory waste can be sold into local markets and the unsold materials can be dumped or incinerated. According to the authors, this is an “untapped opportunity for growth” and the brands should motivate factories to share information on waste quantity and type to improve traceability across the entire supply chain and use remanufacturing to increase the value of process waste.

Reverse Resources recommends three types of remanufacturing: ‘invisible’ (using production leftovers on internal areas of garments), ‘visible’ (using waste fabrics for detailing and trims), and “design-led manufacturing of a garment with a specific waste-stream in mind”.

According to the report, remanufacturing could reduce the use of new fabric by around 3% and increase the value of textile waste 4-fold. A pilot project with four textile suppliers in Bangladesh leads Reverse Resources to estimate that, if scaled up to the whole of the country, textile leftovers could make 1.6 bn garments (with a market value of USD 4 bn) and increase Bangladeshi textile factories’ profits 3-5 fold.

We at Uniform Reuse completely agree with the report's advocacy of the remanufacturing business model as the way forward. Uniform Reuse has long been a vocal exponent of circular economy principles for companies wanting to dispose of corporatewear.