It’s a familiar scene: you’ve done your spring clean and culled your closet, purging your wardrobe of pieces that are a little too small, a little too dated, or just so old they’re too threadbare to wear. Have you ever thought of what happens next? Where do your ex-textiles go once you’ve said goodbye? Too often the answer is the landfill. But innovative sustainable start-up Drop & Loop is trying to change that, giving old clothes a second life. Founders Carlijn Oosthoek and Susan de Vries took us on a tour of the what, why, and how of their company in this Spotlight story.
Giving pre-loved textiles a second life
Drop & Loop is an innovative initiative making the textile industry more circular. Instead of dropping your old clothes into a textile container, where they’re likely to be incinerated, you return them to a Drop & Loop collection point. Then they’re either reused or processed into pieces for a new collection at their partner factory in Morocco, and you’re taking a step towards more sustainable fashion.
“We offer our retailers a very simple concept that they can put into stores, and 96% of all the textiles we collect through a Drop & Loop point get a second life,” explains Carlijn. “Which is very high compared to other collection concepts. And we’re very transparent about what we collect, the status of the textiles, and what we do with them.”
From wastebin back to your wardrobe
Everyone benefits from a more sustainable world, and fashion has a huge role to play in that. Textile containers may seem sustainable, but they’re often not the best option. “10% to 15% of these containers are polluted, which means sometimes the entire container goes to the incinerator,” says Susan. In fact, more than 150 million kilos of clothing are incinerated each year in the Netherlands alone, and just 1/3 of collected textiles find a new life. Not to mention the clothes that skip the collection point and go straight to a landfill.
But there’s also EPR, or Extended Producer Responsibility – proposed legislation that would require textile producers and retailers to collect and process used textiles, reducing the fabric’s ecological footprint. And Drop & Loop’s transparent, full-circle solution is an easy way for retailers to be compliant from the start. “We can easily give our retailers information on how much they’ve collected in store, the quality of the textiles, and what has been done with them,” explains Carlijn, which makes reporting a breeze.
Sustainable fashion through sustainable partnerships
Sounds like a fantastic concept, but the logistics seem daunting. How is Drop & Loop tackling that challenge? With three innovative concepts and strategic industry partnerships. Drop & Loop vending-style machines are available in high-traffic locations like supermarkets and department stores – pop your old clothes in, get a discount voucher in return. There are also Drop & Loop boxes at fashion retailers, and the start-up has an online solution in the pipeline that makes recycling old clothes part of the online shopping experience. They’ve partnered with PostNL to collect the donated textiles, which will make scaling nationally a much easier process.
“But we aren’t just the drop, we’re the loop, as well,” Susan points out. “It’s the entire concept.” So they’ve also joined forces with Wolkat to close the circular loop. Wolkat is the only circular textile processor in the world where the entire chain (sorting, recycling, spinning, and weaving) is housed under one roof.
And those kinds of partnerships, and the relationships they’re forging through the Econnections platform, are a great way to help turn the sustainability tide in a huge sector like the fashion industry. “It’s good business for the industry, as well, because you’re bringing together the big boys and the smaller start-ups,” says Carlijn. “We’re getting help, but we’re helping them, as well, and that’s a win-win situation. I think that’s very valuable.”