The global textiles industry represents 3% of the worlds GDP, employs 75 million people and is one of the most rapidly growing industries. However, in its current mode, the industry leads to serious social and environmental problems. UPSET wants to turn the tide, and realize a socially fair and circular textiles value chain. We start at the hart of the industry: India. India is the world’s second largest producer of textile products and the second largest producer of cotton. We are building a value chain that eliminates waste and reduces the dependency on scarce, natural resources of the textile industry and is capable of serving people on a global scale with sustainable textile products.
In 2015, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from textiles production totalled 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent,21 more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined.
Cotton represents 25% of the fibers used in textiles. The production of cotton is associated with deforestation, is water intensive and consumes significant amounts of pesticides.
Textiles production (including cotton farming) uses around 93 billion cubic meters of water annually it is estimated that the Indian textile sector uses more than 1,600,000,000 liters of water per day, while some areas have severe water shortage.
Despite the knowledge of the negative impact of the resources used by the textile industry, only 1% of textile (post production and – consumer) is recycled at present. We, UPSET, believe that a circular textiles value chain will reduce the need to grow virgin cotton, the need to use fresh water, and mitigate to climate change by reducing GHG emissions. In India it is more common that factory waste is send to landfill, or down-cycled into low-value products. The existing textile waste recycling industry applies mechanical shredding, which shortens the fibers, which limits circular use. Due to shortening the fiber, the fibers are of a lower quality and cannot be used for the production of new clothes. Chemical recycling technologies are emerging, but, until today, cannot recycle cotton into fibers of virgin quality.
UPSET partnered with PurFi, who developed a groundbreaking technology to chemically recycle cotton, which enables us to produce 100% recycled cotton yarns. UPSET brings the PurFi technology to India and develops the required logistics in the local context to realize a circular value chain.
We all remember the horrifying event at Rana Plaza, where hundreds of textile workers had to pay with their lives. We cannot continue to wear clothing that is produced with such risks. In emerging countries like India, workers in the textile industry are faced with poor working conditions: no protection for hazardous chemicals used during the production process, long working hours, low wages, often with cases of sexual harassment, intimidation, and no social security services.
UPSET is building a new textile value chain, where increasing recycling rates is at its core. We combine this environmental ambition with high social principles: we carefully select our partners in the value chain and ensure they align with our high social standards.
Environmental and social issues in the textiles value chain (EMF, 2017)