Evrnu: A Different Future For Apparel
The vision for clothing in the circular economy, as in many sectors, is “in-development”. On both the technical and business side, a different model for the industry presents challenges for designers, manufacturers and retailers alike. However, that context also leaves open opportunities for innovation, new thinking and new technology. Seattle-based startup Evrnu has been created to exploit those opportunities, developing a technology that transforms discarded garments into new fibres, a re-imagination of the future of apparel.
The nature of the fashion industry and how clothing is marketed means that high turnover is common among consumers. The challenge is substantial: the industry is resource-intensive, relying on vulnerable stocks of materials, producing toxic waste and affecting air, water and soil quality. Meanwhile, in the U.S. alone, 14.3 million tonnes of textile waste was created in 2014. Only a small percentage of that waste can be recycled, and although there is an established second hand sector which facilitates reuse cycles, in the current context its place appears to be restricted to the fringes of the market. Meanwhile, companies like H&M are implementing sophisticated collection and reverse logistic operations for textile waste, but don’t have the technology to process the items that aren’t in condition to be be easily re-sold.
Faster progress is being made in the area of technological innovation to recycle apparel into new fibres, and the work of Evrnu is at the forefront of that development. It creates products using minimal virgin resources and generating no waste.
The patent-pending technology relies upon a relatively simple process. First, dyes and other contaminants are stripped from waste cotton clothing. The cotton is then pulped, broken down until it has been reduced to its constituent fibre molecules. Once reduced to that level, the fibres can be recombined and engineered to the specifications required by clothing manufacturers.
Evrnu’s technology isn’t only interesting from re-utilisation of waste material perspective. The customisation potential in the re-engineering phase opens up possibilities for new pioneering design, a potentially high value factor in today’s fashion sector.
CEO and co-founder, Stacy Flynn, explained to Circulate that cost competitiveness, “is dependent upon the type of fibre. Our goal is to be competitive with the cost of organic cotton. We see a larger conversation around value, shifting from standard single unit economics.” Additionally, as is often the case, getting to scale is a key factor in making the economics work.
If Evrnu is able to successfully scale its operations, then it has the potential to be the source of regenerative high-quality bio-based fibres. Technological developments of this kind could be an initial step towards a closed loop supply chain in textiles, where waste garments and apparel are re-utilised as raw material.
There are other examples of similar technologies being developed in Europe, Swedish-based Re:newcell AB being one example. However, Evrnu is the first and only invention of its kind to be commercialised in the United States.