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Every year, the leftovers and waste material from garment and fabric production is huge. Nobody knows exactly how much material is thrown away each year, but if the estimates of Ann Runnel are to be believed, the numbers are incredibly high. If this unresourceful behaviour could be prevented, the effect on all parts of the supply chain could be huge, efficiency could rise, as could profits-while being more sustainable, and ecologically as well as socially responsible. Estonian entrepreneur Ann Runnel plans to do just that: her idea is to implement a marketplace for industrial-scale reuse and recycling of production leftovers. Fibre2Fashion spoke to her about her goals for the project, her current challenges and the impact her project could have on the global scale of textile production and sustainability.
What is the goal of your project?
The goal of Reverse-Resources is to help garment factories in Asia be more transparent about the leftovers of their production for the brands whom they produce for. We aim to create synergies and new business opportunities based on leftover materials. We want brands, producers and recyclers to be able to reuse and recycle whatever is left from their production. As brands are now one after another taking responsibility for the post-consumer leftovers, we are doing a similar thing on the production side. But instead of physically gathering and recycling these materials, our focus is on developing enabling software and improving data movement about leftover materials.
What is your own background?
I studied economics and entrepreneurship. The research about how eco-innovation functions and especially the focus on the textiles industry has been both my hobby and personal interest area for seven years.
What steps have you taken so far?
The company was registered in 2014, but it was a year later when things actually started to move. We were accepted in the Climate Launchpad programme, an accelerator programme, that helped us refine our message and develop the first prototype. Because of that we were able to apply and win the Global Change Award by H&M. Since then we have launched a pilot with H&M and three of their suppliers in China. We are preparing another pilot in Bangladesh in cooperation with suppliers of Tesco.
How did you conceive of the idea to start an online market for textile leftovers?
I was very interested in the eco-innovation issues-how are some companies able do business in an environmentally positive, profitable and social way? I was always interested in the question of scaling up the positive impacts. I used to work with an upcycling fashion designer and this brought me to see how upcycling was started in Beximco, the largest garment producer in Bangladesh. I analysed the economic benefits of this cooperation and this brought me to starting this company to solve the biggest obstacle: the data movement problem.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing with the project at the moment?
Our biggest challenge is to carry out a few successful pilot cases that can prove the concept, the value of it for the suppliers as well as brands, and to be able to reach the conclusion that can be scaled up fast enough.