A Circular Economy for Textiles

UsedFully has created a new way to re-purpose fabric waste

As New Zealand's fastest-growing waste stream, unused and unwanted textiles are set to become part of a national circular economy.

Cellulose is currently imported into New Zealand as a stabiliser in asphalt road mix, it improves a road's workability, homogeneity and final strength. The new circular economy for textiles will repurpose waste fabric into a cellulose replacement on home soil. It is currently estimated that 220,000 tonnes of potential cellulose fibres are put into landfills each year. 

UsedFully and Scion were the first to explore potential waste textile applications. UsedFullly worked with its Textile Reuse Programme partners (Alsco NZ, Deane Apparel and Barkers Clothing) to manage the current collection, recycling and connection systems of unwanted clothing. While Scion worked on fabric fibre processing, testing and material development. 

Other partners on the project then came to include WSP Research for roading material development and testing, and Waka Kotahi for road construction and infrastructure requirements. 

The project was met with success in the laboratory, and a trial is set for the terrace between Ghuznee and Buller streets in Wellington. Wellington City Council and Fulton Hogan are working together to lay the new section of road with ‘StrengthTex,’ which uses half a tonne of used textiles in its Cellulose replacement.

“StrengthTex is the first of a number of industrial-scale solutions we have developed from unwanted textiles. It not only provides a fit for purpose product for our roads and construction industry, it also supports organisations to take action on climate change by diverting their unwanted textiles from waste into local, real-world solutions.” Said Peter Thompson, CEO of UsedFully. 

Diverting New Zealand’s textile waste from landfills into ‘StrengthTex’ could reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 400,000 tonnes each year. But not only will the new initiative strengthen roads, reduce waste, and greenhouse gas emissions, it is also likely to create a number of jobs - The perfect example of what it means to be a circular economy. 

“The circular economy model lengthens the timeframe of products by reusing them,  repurposing them, and building on their lifecycle. This trial ticks all those boxes, and we look forward to hearing the results, and this innovative approach becoming the norm, not an anomaly,” said Wellington Councillor Laurie Foon.