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First ever Circular by Design Innovation Festival for Ireland

Posted 17.11.2022
Press Releases

  • Irish textile waste 35% above EU average
  • 292,000 tonnes of new textiles, clothing and footwear imported each year
  • 65% of post-consumer textile waste in Ireland is not reused or recycled

The first ever Circular by Design Innovation Festival focusing on promoting circularity in the Irish textiles industry is taking place today 17th November in Smock Alley, Dublin as part of Design Week Ireland. A joint initiative between the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCI) and Creative Futures Academy (CFA) at the National College of Art & Design (NCAD), the Innovation Festival will feature three international experts sharing best practice on how to create a sustainable circular textiles industry. Eleven Irish textiles and apparel companies who completed the Circular by Design pilot programme this year will present the resultant circular solutions and future plans to further integrate and scale sustainable practices in their company. The Circular by Design Innovation Festival is made possible with the support of the CIRCULÉIRE Innovation Fund and DCCI through Enterprise Ireland.

Post-consumer textile waste in Ireland is estimated at 35kg per person which is almost 35% higher than the EU average of 26kg per person. Ireland is a net importer of clothing and textiles with 292,000 tonnes of new textiles, clothing and footwear imported per annum. Approximately 65% (110,000 tonnes) of post-consumer textile waste (incl. clothing, footwear and other textile products) in this country is not reused or recycled but rather directly collected as household, commercial or industrial waste and goes to waste to energy plants or landfill. (All stats sourced from Nature & Extent of Post-Consumer Textiles in Ireland (2021), research commissioned by EPA),

“There is a real urgency now in Ireland to move to a circular textiles industry. The textiles industry is the third highest emitter of greenhouses globally. In order to stay within the 1.5 degree pathway laid out by the Paris Climate Agreement, we need to fundamentally redesign how we design, produce, sell, use and dispose of our clothing.

The EU Textiles Strategy sets out a clear vision and actions to ensure that by 2030 all textile products placed on the EU market are long lived and recyclable, made as much as possible from recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances and produced in a way that respects social rights and the environment. It is crucial for Irish textile businesses to get ahead of this upcoming regulation and move to more circular practices making products from safe and renewable inputs, designing for durability and/or recyclability and ensuring that all products have routes to repair, re-use and recycling at their eventual end of use.

The Innovation Festival will be a dynamic, action-oriented programme of talks, panels, showcases and collaborative industry workshops highlighting the urgent need and unique opportunity we have to create a just, circular textiles industry in Ireland and the critical role that design plays in enabling that transition” says Gwen Cunningham, Lead for Circularity & Sustainability, NCAD

Three international frontrunners in the circular design field are speaking today  at the Festival –

Jade Wilting, Environmental Responsibility Manager at Danish fashion giant GANNI. Jade is focusing on the production phase of the textiles and apparel value chain and exploring the question ‘How might we build products for circularity and reduce impact on the production process?’ Jade leads the GANNI Insetting Project which works on reducing carbon emissions directly from within the company’s supply chain
Prof Becky Earley, Founder of the Centre for Circular Design at University of the Arts, London will focus on the use phase of the textiles and apparel value chain and explore the question ‘How can we build materials, models and mindsets that enable textiles to be used more and used longer?’
Thami Schweichler, Founder & CEO of Makers Unite and United Repairs Centre, the largest repair centre in Europe. Thami is focusing on the use phase of the textiles and apparel value chain and exploring how to build a post-use system that keeps materials and people functioning at their highest potential.

The Circular by Design Innovation Festival is the culmination of the pilot programme of Circular by Design, the first ever professional training programme for the textile industry in Ireland which has been running in Ireland since March 2022. The programme saw eleven Irish textile companies learn about making the transition to circularity in their business. These are Arran Street East, Ceadogán Rugmakers, Fiadh, Irish Linen Shirt Company, Liadain Aiken Knitwear, Lily Mais, Mar Knitwear, Mise Tusa, Saturn Cottage Industries, Talú Earth and The Upcycle Movement.

Participants in the Circular by Design pilot learnt about circular  business models, international trends, best practice and the challenges and opportunities stemming from practical application. They attended Masterclasses, coaching sessions and webinars with experts in their field and devised circular solutions for their business which they are presenting today at the Innovation Festival.

Jennifer Walsh, Circular by Design Lead, DCCI “We at Design & Crafts Council Ireland are delighted to be part of such an important initiative promoting sustainability in the craft and design sector. This is a significant opportunity to rethink the way we operate in the Irish textiles industry. Each participant received 1-to-1 support from a circular textiles expert and got the chance to create a bespoke plan for their business which we are looking forward to seeing at the Innovation Festival. Circular by Design has improved knowledge and skillsets, providing a further competitive edge to a sector that is highly regarded the world over.”

The Innovation Festival is split into two sessions, the morning ‘IDEATE’ session from 11am-1:20pm features talks from the three keynote speakers followed by a panel discussion with thought leaders and innovators. This morning session is both in-person and livestreamed. The second ‘ACTIVATE’ session will run from 2:15-5pm and will feature workshops, a showcase and pitch session from the 11 Irish brands pioneering circular design solutions within the pilot training programme. The ‘ACTIVATE’ session is in-person only.