Circular economy – defined by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation as an economy which is regenerative by design and where materials and energy flow in closed loops within the value chain – can offer solutions to numerous sustainability issues faced by the world. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, redesign, refurbish and remanufacture, also known as the 7Rs, are the basic tenets if circular economy. In other words, circular economy is a way of conducting business which is less impactful towards the environment, and provides value to all stakeholders in the value chain. It also boosts business competitiveness. Ideally, a circular economy is driven wholly by renewable energy, and the concept of “waste” is eliminated by design. If adopted in a holistic manner, employing systems perspective, circular economy can help transform lives and livelihoods around the globe. It can help create robust, vibrant societies while reversing some of the harm done to the world’s ecosystems.
CRB has initiated multiple projects on circular apparel, that aim to identify and facilitate key policy and practice interventions that can provide impetus to nudge the Indian Textile and Apparel sector onto a circular path and thereby support balanced and sustainable growth of the industry. This Factsheet provides an overview of these interventions in terms of their objectives, achievements so far and the way ahead.
CRB is working with NITI Aayog on developing a status paper on circular economy in the textile and apparel sector in India (circular apparel). The paper will focus on the current state of the industry in relation with circular economy; structural challenges facing the sector; highlight the priority areas as captured under a framework on circular apparel developed by CRB such as energy, water, chemicals, technical textiles, etc.; examples of circular apparel initiatives in the sector; and policy recommendation/ ideas generated by CRB through stakeholder consultations and in-house research.
Globally, there is considerable momentum towards circular apparel, led by international brands. Therefore, Indian apparel suppliers/manufacturers can make substantial gain by demonstrating transition towards circularity. Given the complexity of such transitions, effective policymaking and implementation of circular economy is required – this needs coordination between relevant government organs viz. central government, sectoral/line ministries, central and state departments. Circular Apparel Policy Innovation Lab (CAPIL) is an initiative of CRB, supported by C&A Foundation, which will support well-informed policies and implementation mechanics to accelerate circular apparel in India. CRB has partnered with Intellecap and Fashion For Good in this initiative. The goal is to create an engagement platform that bridges the gap between policy makers and industry actors (brands, suppliers, input providers, innovators, associations, academia/experts) at state and national levels for accelerating transformation towards circular apparel. The initiative will leverage design thinking methods to develop ideas and concepts for policy interventions. It will focus on policy innovations that will drive a circular apparel industry, particularly in the following areas: (i) Raw materials (fabric innovations) (ii) Dyeing & finishing (wastewater and chemicals management), 3) Manufacturing (clean tech, energy, waste management, process innovations), (iv) Retail (innovative business models), (v) End-of-Use (waste reduction, upcycling) and (vi) Transparency & Traceability.
CRB in association with Novozymes in 2019 conducted workshops and in 2018 directed a scoping exercise on promoting circular economy practices in textile manufacturing by engaging with manufacturers and other stakeholders in Delhi NCR. The aim of this initiative was to create basic awareness and understanding any textile manufacturers & other key stakeholders on opportunities and challenges in promoting transition towards circular apparel, CRB would use their experience in creating a following initiative to engage with policymakers and influencers on circular apparel in India. This would attribute towards creating an ecosystem for circular apparel.
In India, e-waste is primarily managed by the informal sector and there is high dependency on this sector to manage IT/electronics products at end of life. One possible path to capacity building of informal sector is using the power of purchasers and engaging them in the creation of end-of-life requirements, or criteria, in an India IT Product Sustainability Standard that would leverage the resources of IT manufacturers and would also link to SDGs.
Accordingly, CRB and Green Electronics Council (GEC)) formed an institutional partnership with the aim of bridging the gap between the state of policy and current end of life practices by exploring capacity building opportunities for end-of-life management of IT/electronics equipment. As a means to develop the voluntary consensus standard, a White Paper on “End-of-Life Capacity Building Criteria for IT Products in India” was developed based on interactions and inputs received from key multiple stakeholders including government representatives, industry association representatives, businesses (IT and electronics producers), recyclers including agencies, sector experts, and NGOs working on the issue. The research has also explored ways to promote workable solutions (good practices) for producers/industry actors so that such ‘knowledge’ is available for other industry actors to emulate.
In 2017-18, CRB along with partner MVO Nederland, under the Indo-Dutch CSR & Sustainability Forum (INDUS-Forum) project has undertaken a study entitled, ‘Exploring Possibilities of Transforming Agriculture Residue into Wood Composite in India’ (referred to as Stubble Up). The objective of the study was to explore the feasibility of converting crop residue to composite boards – a technology that exists in India but doesn’t seem to have attained significant commercial status. The research was a mix of secondary research and interaction with various key players, industry experts, government representatives, corporate and manufacturers.
Based on the findings and deliberations with stakeholders, CRB has envisaged an intervention which would explore and support the farming community for making sustainable and climate smart choices in stubble management – and prepare the ground for its application (pilot) in select districts of Haryana. The project aims to propose a business model which is not only environmentally sustainable, but also advances economic opportunities in areas where stubble-burning is rampant. The intervention will explore the feasibility of setting up decentralized, small-scale, farmer owned composite board units based on agro-residue.