Each year, 80 billion new garments are produced around the world, but textiles has one of the poorest recycling rates of any reusable material today. One of the biggest barriers to textile recycling is that we often don’t know what the clothes are made of. To bridge this communication gap between manufacturers and recyclers, Natasha Franck and Dr Anura Rathnayake developed a digital thread that stores the content information needed to recycle each garment automatically.
The innovation in a nutshell
Facilitating sorting and recycling of clothes using a digital thread.
Let us explain
The thread looks and feels much like a normal thread, but through RFID (radio frequency identification) technology, it can store digital information and be scanned from a distance. Lasting over the garment’s lifetime, the thread reduces waste throughout the entire supply chain and drives the transition to a circular system in which materials can be perpetually recycled.
In addition to facilitating recycling of clothes, the content thread can also be valuable for supply chain management, anti-theft and for creating “smart” connected clothing.
Since winning the award
The team quickly moved beyond proof of concept to a commercialised strategy and went from only producing sample threads to making millions of tags in 2018.
However, as the innovation took off, they realised changes in the setup were needed. It resulted in two companies – EON headed by Natasha Franck and Adetexs by Anura Rathnayake.
Adetexs runs the production and development of the RFID thread, and EON is the exclusive global sales partner. EON is currently leveraging the thread in several pilots with large global brands.
Natasha recently launched Connect Fashion under the EON umbrella. It’s a global initiative to establish an open standard for a shared digital system, where products can be identified and managed throughout its lifecycle. “This is an incredibly exciting step for the industry and for our team – collaborating with some of the largest brands, retailers, re-commerce, recycling partners and technology partners – to create the digital foundation for operationalizing circular economy,” says Natasha.
Next, EON will run pilots with partners in the Connect Fashion Initiative, making it possible for the first time to digitally and globally identify products in circular economy.
On the Global Change Award
“Applying to Global Change Award changed my work and my life. I would never have been able to build this company without it,” says Natasha Franck.
Team members: Natasha Franck, EON and Anura Rathnayake, Adetexs
Country: USA and United Kingdom
Company: EON / Adetexs
eongroup.co / adetexs.com