Special Guest: Scott Hamlin, Founder & CEO, Looptworks
On this episode of The Impact Exchange we are going to dive deeper into the growing vision of the circular economy supply chain. Plus, its impact on our environment and home, Mother Earth. We are excited to have Scott Hamlin with us, Founder and CEO of Looptworks, who is a driving force behind the circular economy.
Circular vs. Linear Economy
A circular economy (often referred to simply as "circularity”) is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.
As conscious consumption continues to be a major deciding factor when it comes to purchasing behaviors, the lifecycle of a product has come under scrutiny now more than ever. Consumers not only care about whether a product was ethically sourced, they care about the lifespan of goods and whether they become “waste” or “food” for another process.
As Scott began to dig deeper into the world of waste, he uncovered dismal realities of the textile world. Even supposed sustainable options like hemp and bamboo were part of the problem leaving about 28% of production materials wasted through the manufacturing process. Not to mention the amount of water used, potential leakage of toxic chemicals through dyeing and finishing and then of course most products end up either burned or thrown out.
“There is 70x more pre-consumer waste than post-consumer waste.”
Meaning that before the product ever gets to the shelf to be purchased, there is 70x more waste and materials that are created and left behind in the manufacturing process than when you go to recycle something as a post consumer at the end of its life.
Synthetic clothing takes hundreds of years to decompose.
15+ million tons of used textile waste is generated in U.S. alone every year.
Only about 0.1% of recycled fiber collected by charities and take-back programs is recycled into new textile fiber.
The average person buys 60 percent more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago, generating a huge amount of waste.
The good news is that nearly 100% of all textiles are recyclable. Which led Scott to look into circularity and upcycling, which is what Looptworks was founded on.
“What if we just stopped. And we didn’t make any new materials but we used only what already existed? Were there enough materials on this planet to keep us moving?”
Ten years after the creation of Looptworks and the answer is still: YES.
Waste Doesn’t Discriminate
No matter the industry, there seems to be one common denominator: waste. Looptworks works in a wide variety of industries such as aviation, fashion, athletic, outdoor, entertainment, and even finance.
No matter the brand or industry, when clients come to Looptworks, their problems are similar:
- They want to start with zero waste philosophy and don’t know where to begin
- They have all of this waste and they don’t know what to do with it
Looptworks built their foundation on the concept of upcycling. As it reads on the Looptworks site, “Upcycling is the process of transforming materials destined to be destroyed into new products of higher value and environmental purpose. Reusing waste without destroying it takes far less energy than breaking it down to be remade into something new.”
Upcycling may not be as commonly known as the word sustainable, since the term gets thrown around alot, but that leads us to our next discussion with Scott...
Is Sustainability Sustainable?
As Scott works with a range of clients, he sees many companies put sustainability into play whilte building benchmarks on how to develop a sustainable strategy for their company. But he expresses that sustainability needs to go beyond the context we normally use it, referring to the way we relate it to the environment. It is also financial sustainability.
“Companies can’t keep doing what they are doing in a linear fashion because we will run out of resources. And we will mess up things we require to live. Things like fresh air and fresh water.”
Fresh air and water truly are the resources that cannot be compromised if we want to be “sustainable” as a human race. That can be hard to remain a priority when you’re at the end of Q4 and you’re looking at profit margins that need to be met while you have sustainability people breathing down your neck.
So how can you please bothsides?
Scott explains this has to be a top down initiative. You have to find ways to supplement income as you change your business model. As Scott says, in a perfect world, you’re responsible for the material through the entire lifespan. In a linear economy, there’s a lack of responsibility throughout. Once a brand sells the product to a retailer, they relieve themselves of responsibility, once the retailer sells to the consumer and then the consumer gives it to good will - that responsibility gets moved until there’s no one left to care.
That’s where reselling comes into play. Beyond the supply chain, there are retailers and a massive growing industry built around this concept of reselling. For example, Retail Dive recently released an article based on the ThreadUP retail trend report stating that ”ThredUp's 2019 trend report, resale grew 21 times faster than the apparel market over the past three years and is projected to reach $51 billion over the next three years.”
“You’ve got to have the margin in order to have the mission.” - Scott Hamlin
Looptworks is trying to help companies embrace circularity by helping brands to set up platforms to resell, doing repairs for the reseller programs or upcycling to make new products.
Listen to the podcast to find out what Scott’s perspective is on the following:
- What are the next steps for retail as an industry to embrace the circular economy
- How Scott creates KPIs to measure success while still keeping growth in mind
- Small steps you can take to move towards a circular economy
Remember at the end of the day, in order to continue to do good, you have to continue to grow (profit).
If you’d like to learn more about Looptworks mission check it out here. Especially if you are a brand curious about taking steps towards zero waste or if you’re looking to buy one-of-a-kind products made from materials by the NBA, Southwest, or musicians like Bon Iver for example. Get 20% off by using the code: IMPACTEXCHANGE20.
We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Impact Exchange, until next time…