Course ONE

Interactive ecosystem for circular textiles: the New Cotton Project case

Project introduction

Course description

In a world first for the fashion industry, the New Cotton Project is an ongoing EU-funded endeavour which harnesses collaboration and cutting-edge technology to create new knowledge in circular fashion. In the New Cotton Project, twelve pioneering players have come together to break new ground by demonstrating a circular ecosystemic model for commercial garment production.

Over a three-year period, textile waste is collected and sorted, and regenerated into a new, man-made cellulosic fibre that looks and feels like cotton – a “new cotton” – using Infinited Fiber Company’s textile fibre regeneration technology. The fibres will be used to create different types of fabrics for clothing that will be designed, manufactured and sold by global brand adidas and companies in the H&M Group. The project also aims to act as an inspiration and steppingstone for further, even bigger circular initiatives in the industry going forward.

Each of the 12 participants in this project has a unique role in defining a blueprint for circularity in textiles. Infinited Fiber Company will create its unique, cellulose-based textile fibres (cellulose carbamate fibres) out of post-consumer textile waste. Frankenhuis and Xamk will be working on the pre-processing and research for pre-treatment of textile waste.

REvolve Waste, RISE and Aalto University, will collect and provide data, conduct research and analysis. Fashion for Good will lead on the communications to the industry. Design and manufacture of the fibres into clothing will be done by H&M Group and adidas.

This course was developed to explain and illustrate the stages of the New Cotton Project, focussing on the differences and similarities between the circular ecosystem and other production models.

The race for sustainable production and consumption has led the textile industry to advance its quest for sustainable processes to improve the way things have been made for centuries. Pollution and resource management have led to various improvements throughout the sector but mostly in a linear manner.

The circular ecosystem proposed by the New Cotton Project functions by consuming what was once deemed as disposable waste instead of raw materials, also embracing the absorption of cellulose waste produced during the manufacturing process.

Crucial for the smooth development and implementation of the New Cotton Project’s circular ecosystem, partner engagement has contributed to the understanding of the industry and to propose activities which would lead the overall ecosystem closer to producing zero waste. Below you can see who were the main partners and how they have collaborated within the project as well as this course.

Main partners

Learning objectives

This course was developed as a knowledge window to the work being carried out at the Department of Design at Aalto University in the city of Espoo, Finland.

The textile industry has been the cradle of sustainability research as the driving force for the industrial revolution and its connection to the first signs of pollution. With the increased exposure of the industry’s ill-doings, producers and consumers have started engaging in awareness campaigns to produce and consume textiles sustainably.

Currently embracing the circular economy, and its challenges, the textile loop has acknowledged the importance of post-consumer textile waste as a strong and widely available ‘raw material’. The New Cotton Project, an European Union-funded Horizon 2020 project, is being developed as an attempt to create a commercial-scale circular ecosystem grounded on the post-consumer textile collection and sorting, followed by its regeneration as the basis for the production of new cotton-like fibres (Infinna™), eventually being launched for the general public through two garment collections (Adidas and H&M – autumn 2022).

With new policies and the widespread attempts to increase recycling and incorporating zero-waste practices, post-consumer textiles and recycling are currently focus activities within the textile industry, however, in order to ensure the collected post-consumer material is compliant with recycling there are several steps to be followed such as the avoidance of what cradle-to-cradle has called monstrous hybrid (the mixture of biodegradable and recyclable materials in such a way that the final product is neither recyclable nor compostable).

The students following this course will understand the concept of circularity behind the New Cotton Project as well as its various phases. By the end of the course, students will be able to communicate and analyse the stages, with additional grounds to compare the Infinna™ production to that of traditional wood-based viscose, and understand how other processes are also followed in the textile industry.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you will be able to understand:

  • How a supply chain functions;
  • What is a value chain and its increments;
  • The theory around circular economy and industrial ecosystems;
  • Understand the stages being changed by the New Cotton Project;
  • Understand how the textile industry currently works;
  • Visually understand some stages of production (such as weaving);
  • Start understanding what can be done with your used garments.

Audience and course requirements

This course was developed for an open audience majorly composed of professionals, students, and fashion consumers who might have bought the collection or come across the New Cotton Project as well as any of its 12 partners.

There is no specific requirement for the course, however, due to the topic, it might be easier for professionals within the field to follow some of the more complex phases of the product’s development.

Moreover, the course creators have searched and are providing additional reading material for those interested in further developing their expertise, and the project’s partners have also provided additional videos which can be found on the ‘KNOWLEDGE FLOW’ layer.

Structure of the course

Composed of a team of 12 different companies, the New Cotton Project is a European Union-sponsored project which harnesses collaboration and cutting-edge technology to create new knowledge in the sphere of circular fashion.

Unconventionally designed, this course is structured around the production map of the InfinnaTM products, passing by each one of the main activities and industrial partners involved in the project. Additionally there are two more layers to the map: one on knowledge and the other on the ecosystemic exchanges. This division might render some images slightly more complicated, however it ensures a more holistic understanding of the overall ecosystem.