30 Nov PODCAST 2: THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY CREATES NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMPANIES – COOPERATION AND INNOVATIONS ARE AT THE CENTRE
The circular economy saves the limited resources of the Earth but it can also be a profitable business. A good example of this is TouchPoint, a workwear company that concentrates on ecological and sustainable workwear. Ecological aspects are an important value also for Hesburger, one of the long-term partners of TouchPoint. Together with Hesburger, TouchPoint has developed ”the first 100 % ecological collection” as Noora Salonoja, CEO of TouchPoint puts it. All the materials in the collection – from t-shirts to belt buckles – are recycled. Not only are ecological materials considered in the workwear but the workwear will also be used until the end of their life cycle, and then be further used as material for Hesburger’s outdoor tables.
“Often our basic idea is what kind of material is generated by our own business that we could reuse in a beneficial way in our own operations. In other words, have our own internal circular economy”, Heini Santos, Communications and Sustainability Manager at Hesburger explains.
The internal values of the companies have driven both TouchPoint and Hesburger towards circular economy solutions. Especially for TouchPoint, it is a central part of their business – and a profitable one at that. However, sustainability alone is not enough. Usability of a product must be good, too.
“We cannot make the kind of compromises where the material is sustainable but not durable. It is not sustainable if you need to produce more. We cannot make concessions that impact the durability and the purpose of the product”, Salonoja says.
In addition to the demands of consumers – and employees -, regulations such as the textile strategy that is being prepared in the EU, directs towards circular economy solutions and, for example, to the use of recycled fibre. The significance of sustainability criteria has increased also in public procurements. Furthermore, if only virgin raw materials are used, it can cause business risks such as price increases in the future when virgin raw materials start to dwindle. Similar impacts, e.g., price increases in fabrics and logistic challenges, has been caused by the corona pandemic. Locally produced recycled fibre is one part of the solution.
The collection of end-of-life textiles comes into effect in Finland on 2023 which brings significant changes and opportunities to textile industry. TouchPoint has seized these opportunities through its subsidiary, Rester. The end-of-life textile refinement plant Rester Ltd. opens end-of-life textiles into reusable recycled fibre which can be utilised in furniture, construction industry as well as in clothing industry. Recycling of end-of-life textiles has its own challenges, for example, in the collection of textiles and in the identification of materials but challenges are also possible to overcome with cooperation.
“There are no ready-made solutions how recycling economy will be actualised. We must try to find the optimal solutions for the circular economy together with different actors in this new situation”, Olli Sahimaa, Postdoctoral Researcher at Aalto University specifies.
“And even though the change into the circular economy is slow and consists of many challenges, I should like to think that greater forces, so to speak, will gradually guide the world towards sustainability and the circular economy. Therefore, it is good to be amongst the forerunners.”
Salonoja and Santos encourage also other companies to seize the opportunities of the circular economy and to consider how they could use recycled textile fibre in their operations.
“There are numerous uses for recycled fibre. Go and check your warehouse, your own product range and see what is being produced or processed. Can some of it be replaced by recycled material? When the fact is that this industry cannot continue operating as it has for the past decades, the change is inevitable and I believe that it will happen quite quickly”, Salonoja summarises.