The ultimate design brief

What if we put washing machines on the blockchain? What if we mapped out every city in the world’s material flows? What if we leased our phones? Or our clothes?

We are lucky to work on some of the wildest and most challenging design briefs out there, finding freedom in the constraints that the linear economy has failed to consider before.

From practical tools and methodologies to tangible proofs of concept– every day, we put on our lab coats and rebuild the legal, financial, technological, and cultural foundation for circularity.

‍Head in the clouds, feet on the ground.


We’ve got it sorted.

the issue

Every year, 4.7 million tonnes of post-consumer textiles are thrown away across North Western Europe simply because they have reached the end of their first-use phase. This excess is an incredible opportunity to capture the inherent value of textiles, displace the use of virgin fibres upstream and eliminate textile waste downstream.

the response

The Fibersort is a technology that automatically sorts large volumes of mixed post-consumer textiles by material composition and colour. Once sorted, these materials become reliable, consistent inputs for high-value textile-to-textile recyclers. If adopted, the technology could divert upto 24% of post-consumer textiles away from landfill.

our role

Circle Economy was the lead partner of this Interreg NWE-funded project, which brought together a consortium of six partners to optimise and realise the widespread implementation of the Fibersort technology. Other project partners are Procotex Corporation S.A., Reshare Leger des Heils, Smart Fibersorting, Valvan Baling Systems, and Worn Again. As the project's lead partner, we were responsible for the overall management of the project and guided the project partners through financial and reporting requirements from the Interreg NWE programme.


Optimising the technology to close the loop on textiles

Together with our project partners, we developed, optimised, and implemented the Fibersort technology at Smart Fibersorting's facility. Throughout the project, over 1,000 tonnes of post-consumer textiles were sorted for recycling. Capacity was created to sort through ~900 kg of textiles per hour using an automated feed-in system.

> 1,000
of post-consumer textiles sorted for recycling
of textiles
per hour per Fibersort (capacity created through the project)

Unlocking key insights for the textile industry

Circle Economy led the project research into the composition of post-consumer textiles—what are they made out of?—and the end-markets for the Fibersort outputs—what recycling technologies could process and recover these materials?. Between July 2019 and March 2020, we also led the illustration of the Fibersort's potential through different case studies with Cirkel Waarde, Procotex, Texaid, Worn Again, the Salvation Army, Loop.a life, and Gap Inc. All final reports are available on the project’s website, or below:

Alex Kremer
Director Corporate Development at Patagonia
The document with the various recyclers of different materials [the end-markets overview] is very helpful as a landscape tool.

Throughout the project, we also engaged with 378 industry stakeholders. These recyclers, brands and retailers have now started to assess the potential use of the Fibersort outputs as feedstock for new products containing recycled content, with one brand——already using recycled Fibersorted textiles as input for their products.

industry stakeholders
engaged throughout the project

Between July 2019 and March 2020, we also identified and guided these stakeholders through key barriers and opportunities to close the loop on textiles. These are available on the project’s website, and were also shared through a public webinar, a recording of which can be found on the Circle Economy Youtube page.

Policy recommendations for governments to valorise end-of-use textiles

Between July 2019 and March 2020, we drafted policy recommendations for local, national and the European government to show which instruments they have at their disposal to accelerate the adoption of automated sorting technologies like the Fibersort, and provided them with guidance on the different barriers and opportunities that exist to close the loop on textiles. These policy recommendations were discussed with European Commission delegates, and are also available on the project’s website. Various government representatives also attended the public webinar that marked the end of the project, where these recommendations were also shared.

Raising awareness

The Fibersort technology garnered a lot of attention from both niche and mainstream media throughout the years, with over 56 press mentions that we are aware of. A selection of noteworthy media coverage can be found below:

What's next?

Now that the technology to automatically sort textiles based on their composition and colour is there, the use of its outputs to turn post-consumer textiles into new textiles can scale. Whilst the Interreg-funded project has ended, the project partners, each in their respective role, continue their efforts to raise appetite within the industry to use Fibersort outputs as feedstock for recycling. Circle Economy continues to leverage the project’s insights and network  to accelerate the transition to a zero waste textile industry.

Coalition Circular Accounting

the issue

In a circular economy, suppliers and providers collaborate to optimise the lifetime of the assets they provide, either as a service or using different models that emphasise extended use over consumption.

However, the circular businesses in operation today are often faced with accounting standards, such as reporting and valuation, that are based on linear principles and that do not reflect their economic reality.

To transition to a circular economy, the mismatch between existing reporting and valuation standards, legislation, and circular business models needs to be addressed, and doing so requires a holistic, multi-stakeholder approach.

the response

The Coalition Circular Accounting (CCA) brings together experts across financial, accounting, legal, as well as other fields, in the Netherlands in an open learning environment to discuss and work out the case of specific, existing circular business models with a valuation or reporting issue.

The cases the Coalition works on are chosen based on how applicable the findings could be to other cases elsewhere, and key learnings are made freely available in the form of whitepapers and ready-to-use resources.

our role

The CCA is an initiative of Circle Economy supported by Invest-NL and the Dutch Professional Association of Accountants (NBA). As the project lead of the CCA, we are responsible for running the coalition, setting up case studies, project management, and report writing.


Working out the financial and accounting reality of ‘Road-as-a-Service’

To date, the coalition has worked on the case of ‘Road-as-a-Service’: a pilot project to build a circular road, whereby the Dutch province of Overijssel is the legal owner of the road, while the contractor, Dura Vermeer, retains economic ownership of the raw materials in the constructed road.

Through this model, contractors like Dura Vermeer can be incentivised for more sustainable construction, maintenance and harvest of roads. 

The Coalition’s work has enabled Dura Vermeer to gain more insight into these models entail from a financial and accounting perspective. Since then, they have also taken this project forward with other governmental bodies, and learnings from the project were shared in a whitepaper that was consulted over 500 times.

What's next?

The second case of the Coalition is looking at Facades-as-a-Service and a whitepaper will be published in September 2020. The Coalition will start a new case in August and another one in November. The four cases in total will cover a diverse set of reporting challenges in the circular economy. In 2021 the learnings from the cases will be aggregated in an overview paper: “Taking stock and looking ahead in the role- and challenges of accounting in the circular economy”. For updates, sign up here.


We must all go back to school