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What was the biggest breakthrough for you in this project?
Winning the Global Change Award has opened many doors. It used to be very difficult to explain why what we are trying to do is necessary and can be highly profitable until we didn't have any real case studies to present. Having H&M as a market leader say it out loud that 'yes, this is something we need to do' made a lot of difference to our credibility for potential customers.
What applications do you see for the marketplace in the future?
The long-term goal is to help garment factories reach zero-waste production by having a good output for each different type of leftover they are dealing with: from fabrics, cutting scraps, buttons and zippers to broken hangers. But we are moving step by step. We started with a marketplace and matchmaking for cutting scraps for recycling and dead stock fabrics for reuse in production. It's already a big challenge to create value for these leftover categories. We've calculated that in China, India and Bangladesh alone there are enough leftover fabrics and fibres (from garment production alone) to produce another 6 billion garments. We would love to see all this waste reused or recycled. Our ultimate aim is to get these resources circulating in the best possible way.
What impact-economical, environmental, in people's lives-can this project have if you succeed?
Reusing and recycling take significantly less energy and water to create a t-shirt compared to conventional production from virgin fibres. I only have approximate numbers from research of others, but the scale of the impact is huge-turning 250 tonnes of cotton leftovers into new garments could save one trillion litres of water in cotton farming. With polyester, the numbers are different, as it's more energy-intensive. But in general, 250 tonnes of leftovers is an amount coming from 4-5 large suppliers in one month. H&M alone is working with 820 suppliers. So the potential to create a really big impact with this project is realistic, if we manage to prove the business value of our software and scale it up. Economical up- and recycling itself make a lot of sense. We've seen how it's possible to make five times more profit from the leftover materials if they are reused or recycled instead of sold locally.
Are there companies that have shown interest in your project?
Yes, we are seeing a lot of interest. In addition to H&M, we have agreed on cooperation with Tesco. There is a clear feedback about the idea that the industry sector in general needs some kind of standardised system for managing the production leftovers in a better way. I hope our software can create value in this process. It's all about creating cooperation and synergy between brands, suppliers, recyclers and upcyclers.
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