When the wood industry formalized the process called “chain of custody” to shepherd sustainable practices through its supply chain, it illuminated the path from forest to lumber yard to finished product. Now, four companies within the textile supply chain have pioneered a polyester trail that stretches from resin to fiber to yarn, on to fabric and furniture production, and back again. Their collaboration could be described as a chain of custody designed to return to itself, a closed loop system for capturing and recycling textile waste back into first-quality goods.
Global furniture company Steelcase, along with its subsidiary, the surface materials company, Designtex, and Canadian textile manufacturer Victor, with Unifi, the maker of the recycled fiber REPREVE, first met at the REPREVE Recycling Center in 2011 to brainstorm ways to achieve a closed-loop process for products within their supply chain. For years, the infrastructure for reclaiming and recycling commercial textiles was non-existent. Cutting waste from furniture production was sold to recyclers for down-cycling into lesser-quality materials for carpet underlays and backing materials. With Steelcase, Designtex, Victor and Unifi joining forces, the dream of redirecting and recycling textile waste into a product of equal value to the original was achieved.
The first product from this collaboration, an upholstery fabric called Loop to Loop, also represents a first for the contract fabrics market. Designed by Designtex, woven by Victor from Unifi yarn for use on Steelcase furniture, Loop to Loop is the result of four companies working together to evaluate and reduce environmental impact within the textile industry.
Not only is Loop to Loop created from recycled content from within the textile industry, it will also be designed and manufactured for future recycling. Most of the collected cutting waste from Steelcase was already post-consumer recycled fabric made from PET water bottles, which was recycled again into the new polyester yarn within Loop to Loop. This and future products within the collaboration will retain their raw materials’ integrity and value through multiple lifetimes.