Pioneering report addresses challenges in Brazil’s textile industry and proposes paths to circular fashion transformation

BVRio, in collaboration with the Circular Plastics in The Americas Programme (CPAP), has released a report titled ‘Sustainable Textile and Clothing Industry: Main Challenges of Circularity in Brazil,’ aiming to transform Brazil’s textile sector by presenting a comprehensive overview.

Brazil, known as one of the world’s leading producers and consumers of textile products, faces a critical lack of official data regarding the destination of waste textiles, and the absence of reverse logistics and recycling obligations has contributed to this information gap. The report fills this gap by taking a pragmatic approach to addressing the lack of transparency and information on the multitude of challenges spanning sorting, selective collection, technological constraints, logistical hurdles, and financial challenges in textile recycling.

“The technological landscape in Brazil for textile-to-textile recycling is still in its nascent stages, particularly for synthetics like polyester fibres. Business models that champion sustainability, such as second-hand sales, exchanges, repairs, resale, and rent, have been tested in Brazil, but are currently not scalable or financially viable,” said Claudia Jeunon, BVRio’s COO, who coordinated the research.

The report highlights that substantial investments in both production and recycling link chains are crucial. “Designing for circularity could play a pivotal role in influencing the entire chain, making products more recyclable,” said Maria Accioly, BVRio circular economy specialist.

In the recycling phase, the report emphasises the need for automated processes for sorting and the removal of trimmings to enhance post-consumer textile recycling. “Developing new technologies for fibre separation is fundamental, as well as business models like repair, reuse, and take-back systems, which are currently not profitable or scalable,” says Maria.  The report suggests that public and tax incentives could be instrumental in making these models financially viable.

“This study aimed to support the discussion on circularity in the textile sector, understanding that this is a strategic sector for Brazil. The vision for this supply chain involves taking on audacious goals, such as ensuring that the textiles placed on the market are durable, repairable and recyclable, largely made from recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances, and produced with respect for social rights and the environment. Fast fashion is out of fashion, and consumers, who are increasingly attentive and aware, are looking for durable and timeless pieces,” says Tathiana Colturato, coordinator of the European Union’s Circular Plastics Programme in the Americas (CPAP).

The recommendations outlined extend beyond industry practices and public policies, suggesting communication strategies and educational initiatives. It calls for the creation of an inter- and intra-sectoral group to analyse and propose solutions, incentivising payments for environmental services, advocating for tax incentives for recycled textile products, and hosting forums and seminars on textile circularity.

In a forward-looking approach, the report proposes the support of a program to implement advanced collection points for receiving, sorting, removing trimmings, shredding, and baling waste textile materials. This initiative aims to increase recycled volumes and optimise logistics costs for both post-industrial and post-consumer scenarios.

In essence, the report offers a comprehensive and actionable roadmap for transforming Brazil’s textile industry into a more sustainable and circular model, urging collaboration and concerted efforts from various stakeholders to implement these recommendations and drive positive change in the sector.