Slovool webinar: A full day of sharing knowledge

The Slovool project, a cooperation between Norway and Slovakia, enabled cultural exchange around the use of wool, and especially in national dress traditions. It was funded by the Bilateral Relations Fund for the Culture Program, through the Ministry of Investment, Regional Development and Informatization of the Slovak Republic from grants from the EEA and Norway.

The exchange was manifested in a full day of lectures and discussions online; and a recording will be made available shortly on Amazing Grazing’s YouTube channel. Speakers from academia and the value chain for wool in the two countries shared insights based on historical developments, cultural practices and how the use of local fibers – mainly wool – had emerged and changed over time.

The main focus of the webinar: A Slovak sheep and its wool

110 people had registered online for the event, while 64 participated, many had said they wanted the recording, in order to watch later as they knew they would either be travelling or needed to watch the proceedings in their own time, due to language issues. Participants joined us from the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Germany, UK, Italy, Romania, Spain, Portugal and of course the two hosting countries of Norway and Slovakia.

The event had been heavily marketed on social media, and therefore had in a short time gathered a lot of attention. The full-day sessions started with a welcome by Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Professor Clothing and Sustainability, Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, followed by co-hosts Lubica Kováčiková and Alena Niňajová from OZ Naša Vlna, who wished everyone welcome in Slovakian.

Wool embroideries typical of Norwegian folk dress (or bunad). Photo: Kari-Anne Pedersen

The presentations were fast and furious, covering themes such as How the change from local spæl wool to merino in embroidery yarns impacted the bunad by Kari-Anne Pedersen, Norwegian Folk Museum to Wool in traditional Slovak folk costumes by Mgr.art Radoslava Janáčová and also The challenges of sourcing material for Slovakian folk costumes in a local value chain perspective by Mgr. Zuzana Kolcunová, both from ÚĽUV (The Center for Folk Art production). Embroidery yarns in wool had been important in both Norway and Slovakia, but changes in both the raw materials for the yarns and in the use of the folk dress, had many interesting differences that were explored.

Part of the exchange was also centered around the words used in the two languages, such as “bunad” for the Norwegian folk dress, and “sukno” for the Slovakian loden-like materials that are actually very common in both countries, called “vadmel” in Norwegian. There was also a surprising discovery when a “guba” material was shown, very common in Eastern Slovakia, worn mainly by men, which has sheep wool woven into the material itself. This is similar to the Nordic “varafell”, which became very popular during Viking times, as covers in the open boats, and still used today as boat rugs. In Slovakia, one of the companies working with local wool uses this technique in modern clothing, which one can see here.

The Guba is a woven material with wool woven in, we find the same in the Nordics, with the varafell.

In the afternoon session, juxtaposing the talk from Ingvild Svorkmo Espelien, founder of Selbu spinning mill (How local sheep breeds have contributed to rediscovering cultural expression in modern design) with the one from Martina Vozárová, founder and owner of Vlnárska Manufaktúra (The challenges of building up a wool value chain based on local Slovak wool, challenges of first Slovak mini-mill) gave a good snapshot of the differences between the two countries’ industrial opportunities for wool. Rounded off with the story of non-profit OZ Naša Vlna and the local Slovak wool brand MOKOŠA by the founders Ľubica Kováčiková and Alena Niňajová, this lead in to an engaged discussion.

Especially the theme of the ‘woolen circle’, where connections are the key element, a concept introduced by Ľubica and Alena – which ties nicely to for example Fibershed, a grassroot organization spreading quickly in Europe (though the idea comes from California, USA). Here, learnings from the Woolume project, another bilateral EEA grants project between Norway and Poland, were interesting for the listeners. We can actually thank this project for meeting with our Slovakian new friends!

A modern “guba” and products from MOKOŠA using Slovakian wool.

Questions from the audience came in both via the chat and by raising hands and asking directly, and these related to many different themes during the day: Is Norway self-sufficient when it comes to wool, how do the government subsidies work, what kind of rules apply for legal environmental standards from scouring in Slovakia, are Norwegian sheep herded in order to collect their milk, does Slovakia cooperate with other former Soviet states around wool, and many more questions.

One of the participants also shared this resource, that many downloaded, and it is accessible here.

Having organized the event in record-time, we are happy that it was such a success and that so many attended and engaged. We hope to continue our cooperation with Slovakia in the future, and hope the bilateral funding will continue to offer such fruitful exchanges!

TPR gets some serious airplay

Volumes, policy measures and Targeted Producer Responsibility all fitted into discussions the week before Easter, where some of us jumped back and forth between Webex, Zoom and Teams, recordings and live webinars. The take-aways are that several policy tools are mired in antiquated ideas that seriously need updating from research, and that the conversations around volumes and sufficiency are what actually can drive change.

STICA’s Climate Action Week coincided with intense webinars from EU’s Joint Research Center on ESPR’s stakeholder review and also PEFCR for apparel and footwear’s open hearing, presented by the Technical Secretariate’s lead. Yes, it was dizzying, but most importantly, Targeted Producer Responsibility and questions surrounding how EU actually plans to address the issue of volumes and degrowing the sector did got airplay.

Kerli Kant Hvass, who is one of our Wasted Textiles partners, presented Targeted Producer Responsibility during the session on the obstacles facing new circular business models during STICA’s Climate Action Week, hosted by Michael Schragger from Sustainable Fashion Academy and lead for Scandinavian Textile Initiative for Climate Action (STICA). In the session Circular Business Models Are Critical for Climate Action – So What Is Preventing Them from Becoming Mainstream? she explained the concept, and continued her argument during the panel discussion towards the end:

“Focusing on the product and assuming this will result in sustainability has serious limitations. Instead, collecting data in the waste streams, and establishing if a product has been used for half a year or for ten years, actually establishing its duration of service (DoS), can give the database for modulating fees.”

TPR got nods

We noticed that Maria Rincon-Lievana, from the EU Commission and DG ENV nodded a lot when Kerli repeated this. Sarah Gray from UK’s WRAP, who is wrapping up a PhD on to what degree circular business models actually have climate and environmental impact, wholeheartedly backed Kerli’s call for dating products in order to gain data on the actual DoS of products for comprehensive LCAs.  

Sadly Paola Migliorini, also from DG ENV, did not hear when Luca Boniolo from Environmental Coalition on Standards (ECOS) said the following in the session on The Legislative Race Is On: Legislation & Regulation in the European Union (we can only hope she reheard the entire session later):

“Labelling regulation presents an opportunity (…) for instance introducing the production date on the label (…) we can know how long the product has been circulated at the end of life. If we do waste audits, we can estimate the DoS to understand was it used to 10 years or was it used for two weeks and then it was discarded and it can also support consumers in knowing that they have the right of a legal guarantee from the purchase date of two years during which if the product fails under normal circumstances, they have the right of it being repaired for free.”

He said much of the same during the session on Sufficiency, To Green-growth, Overconsumption & Degrowth: Can Sufficient Emissions Reductions Be Achieved in the Current Paradigm?

“EPR can for instance be based on how long the product was on the market based on waste audits and the date of production, and thus we can modulate who will have to pay a higher fee. We need to incentivize the reduction of the volumes placed on the market.”

This is the whole idea behind TPR, and even if Luca did not specifically mention TPR, he was voicing the principles behind it.

Old-fashioned or not fit for purpose, or both?

So, what is old-fashioned about the approach the policy-makers are taking? What are the tools that are not fit for purpose?

As it was ESPR and PEFCR we were lectured on the same week, the following thoughts arise.

ESPR (Ecodesign for Sustainable Product Regulation) clearly is based on the faulty assumption that 80% of a product’s environmental impact is decided in the design phase. So, it is intertwined with predicting for example durability, repairability, recyclability and thereby assuming DoS. The problem is, as SIFO research shows, only one-third of textile products or apparel go out of use because they are used up, so if ESPR is going to eco-modulate EPR fees (which seems to be the idea) this will be based on pure guess-work, or what could be more diplomatically called predictions.

TPR suggests the opposite, building the eco-modulation on what becomes waste prematurely and modulated ‘against’ what captures value in the new business models, as Kerli so well described in her presentation.

The hen or the egg?

For PEFCR (Product Environmental Category Rules) the problem is that they are meant to underpin ESPR, but JRC have actually not decided if they are fit for purpose, they said as much in their presentation. So, currently PEF seems to be in limbo, perhaps only fit for Green Claims (Baptiste Carriere-Pradal said as much in his presentation, but also hinting that ESPR would have to use PEF).

PEF is not aiming to be a consumer-facing label, only a set of 16 “frankenproducts” (12 for apparel, four for footwear) which you as a company can compare your product to, and say if your product is “greener” than the “frankenproduct” based on very strict LCA parameters. The data-base that these parameters are resting on, have serious data issue, and may be why France when presenting their “amost-PEF-compatible” label, have taken out one of them (physical durability), In addition, France also is not making GHG emissions the most important parameter – counting for 1/4th of the ‘score’, which PEF currently does.

The main problem, though, is understanding. Consumers understanding what and why.

Simply: In ESPR there is a demand for recycled content, and this is heavily stressed. During the sessions, I asked simply “why?” and presented the latest IVL report with a 1.3% climate reduction for large-scale recycling in the EU. What also surfaced during the week was that only 11% of EU’s population want recycled content. So, win-win or lose-lose to demand recycled content?

Apparel for real life or for bureaucratic purposes?

The issue then feeds into PEF, and how the scores of the “frankenproducts” actually have meaning when talking about real life. Why are stockings, socks and leggings the same “frankenproduct”? What are sweaters actually – when we all know they differ enormously and also their function. It seems, in the end, that everything is a desktop solution for real life actualities.

Having good clothes that are fit for purpose, not apparel that fit policy purposes, should be the goal. They will be used the longest and deliver on DoS. Using ESPR, with PEF as the underpinning logic, will not at all help either the environment, climate change or Europe’s consumers.

So, all in all, listening to the STICA webinar, so well organized by Michael Schragger, gives better insight on where we need to go, than both the JRC organized webinar (which sadly is not publicly available even if it was recorded) and the PEFCR webinar (which can actually be accessed), put together. EU still needs to get their heads around that it’s not at the product level, but at the systems level, that change needs to happen. Let’s hope STICA gave them food for thought.

Fashion and the City

Panel discussion on the role of municipalities in promoting circularity and more sustainable consumption patterns in the fashion sector.

Sustainable fashion is often regarded as an issue of international trade and global issues, disregarding the role of local municipalities in the phenomena of overproduction and overconsumption and their trickle-down effects. Yet many cities around the world have started to think of this challenge and develop innovative mechanisms to reduce the volume of production and overconsumption and support their city’s fashion sector’s transition to sustainability. How can municipalities reduce waste, induce sustainable consumption behaviours in their citizens and promote sustainable choices, and circular business services? Do municipalities that are at the receiving end of fast fashion initiate policies and initiatives to re-address the phenomenon? Can cities impact the fashion industry by changing consumption patterns of their citizens?

UN ALLIANCE WEBINAR February 5th, 2024 14:00 – 17:00 CET

Here in the link to register to the event.

Programme and speakers

Opening remarks Simone Cipriani, Chairperson, UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion & Chief Technical Advisor, Ethical Fashion Initiative (EFI/ITC)

Introduction Katia Dayan Vladimirova, PhD, Senior lecturer and researcher, University of Geneva

City Cases (10 min each) AMSTERDAM: Dieuwertje de Wagenaar, Senior Policy Officer Circular Textiles, City of Amsterdam. Fashion and textiles in the “Amsterdam Doughnut”: How policy can boost local circular ecosystems. OSLO: Kirsi Laitala, Senior researcher, Oslo Metropolitan University. Key challenges of textile waste and city-level solutions: Case of Oslo. ACCRA: Elizabeth Rickett, Co-founder, The Or Foundation. Textile overwhelm: How Accra City is managing the growing volumes of imported second hand garments and the resulting textile waste through circular practices. GENEVA: Katia Dayan Vladimirova, PhD, Senior lecturer and researcher, University of Geneva. Opportunities to support responsible local fashion consumption: Case of the City of Geneva. CAPE TOWN: Alison Evans, Head: Waste Markets, City of Cape Town. Moving towards circular textiles through Cape Town partnerships. The case of the city of NEW YORK will also be featured.

Discussants (5 min each) Felicity Lammas, Sustainability Manager, Global Fashion Agenda Mohammad Awale, Founder, Rummage Josephine Philips, Founder and CEO, Sojo Matt Dwyer, Product Impact and Innovation Leader, Patagonia Enrica Arena, CEO, Orange Fiber Åsa Degerman, Manager, Once More Q&A

Conclusions ● Gulnara Roll, Head of the Cities Unit, UNEP
Moderation ● Paola Deda, Director, Forests, Land and Housing Division, UNECE

This is an event of the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion; organized by ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, UNECE, UNEP, ICLEI and the University of Geneva.

Removing the silk gloves and pulling a (historic) punch

Wardrobe and Climate was the over-arching theme for a CHANGE event at the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo: how we can convey historical knowledge about resource thinking, crafts and wardrobe joy in the museum’s costume collections. An academic hybrid conference morphed into a hands-on evening.

“How did they do it?” was the big question posed during the hybrid seminar during the day, where around 25 attended in person and the same number joined us virtually; and where Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Ingrid Haugsrud, both from Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) at Oslo Metropolitan University, spoke about two forthcoming papers. These are: Variety in dress: Norwegian and Swedish clothing 1780-1880, co-authored by Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen, Marie Ulväng, Pernilla Rasmussen, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Ingrid Haugsrud, and Towards a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear: Wardrobe planning regimes in women’s weekly magazines 1908-2023.Here the authors are Ingrid Haugsrud, Ingun Grimstad Klepp and Vilde Haugrønning.

Ingrid Haugsrud presented findings from Norway’s oldest women’s magazine.

The headline was “Unused resources for CHANGE: Fashion, history and sustainability”, and the question was why does history matter? Why do we need to talk about historical practices in the discussion around the environmental impact of textiles and clothing? asked Professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp, before she then went into how dress-practices from Norway and Sweden during the 100-year period spanning from 1780 till 1880, could offer clues to variety without excessive wastefulness. The red thread being that when we have less clothes, we take much better care of them and assign them high value.

This was followed by Ingrid Haugsrud speaking about “A closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear. Wardrobe planning in Norwegian weekly magazines 1908-2023”, where her analysis of three time-periods in the history of Norway’s oldest surviving women’s magazine which is KK (Kvinner og klær), that started out as Nordisk Mønstertidning. The three main themes that emerged for early 1900s, 1970s and 2020s were: Making do with what one had and at the same time creating variety, mix and match wardrobes (creating an illusion of having more than one actually does) and finally “the capsule wardrobe” and cleaning out/ridding oneself of unused things. The latter having led to a waste colonialism issue in the global south as an unforeseen problem.

Else Skjold led the panel, engaging both the physical and the digital audience.

After the two talks speakers were done, they were joined in a panel by Bjørn Sverre Hol Haugen, Marie Ulväng and Pernilla Rasmussen, monitored by Else Skjold. Here Marie Ulväng pointed out that in the 19th century, a household-budget for apparel was as much as 1/4th of the total. Which is a far cry from today’s share.

Later the same day, many of the participants joined others for a hands-on behind-the-scenes deep-diving into old wardrobes and textile know-how. Participants guessed what materials were hidden in jars based only on how they felt to touch, and also the weight of two garments, an old wool skirt which had belonged to Åse Roe from Tinn in Norway and a silk dress woven in the 1750s, with several reincarnations in the 1800 and 1900s.

Hands-on research: Is it silk, viscose or…?

The audience was also invited to talk about their own wardrobes and clothes with Ingun and Ingrid in what evolved as a deep-dive in a theme that was brought forward during the hybrid seminar: a need for a better language about our wardrobes and what makes them sustainable. Watch and listen to the hybrid webinar by clicking here

Engaged participants discussing with Ingun and Ingrid.

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EU wants data on textile waste, and we have the answer

Text by Tone Skårdal Tobiasson

The proposal for the Waste Framework Directive, which is currently being read and analyzed by a myriad of companies, NGOs, researchers, policy-makers and interested citizens throughout Europe, handles two major consumer ‘goods’: Textiles and food. We are mainly concerned with the former, however, we have found that food offers us two good guiding principles.

The first one is to eat up what is on your plate. The second is waste audits as a means to gain meaningful knowledge on what gets “eaten up” and what doesn’t. In three separate documents, we ask the EU to heed these two guiding principles and apply them to apparel and other textiles.

One of the documents is our feedback on the textile part of the Waste Framework Directive (read the document here), where the authors have concrete recommendations for ensuring that the policy measures in the WFD can actually contribute to the EU’s ambition of putting fast fashion out of fashion. Currently, the Duration of Service is what is lacking in the available data (how long apparel has been in use and to what level the apparel and textile waste is ‘used up’ ), but even if the background document (#4) states “There is currently no sound method of estimating textile waste (collected and discarded in mixed municipal waste)”, this is just not true. And the two other papers elaborate on exactly this point. Waste audits/waste composition studies – which are very much used when gaining data on food waste – and wardrobe studies – are well-developed methods.

The document Status for developing methods for using waste as a resource for knowledge about the use phase of clothing (read the document here), offers an overview of exactly the current status for these methods, while the document USED, BUT NOT USED UP: Using textile waste to inform textile rating schemes (read the document here) explores how the data-collection methodology using waste audits can underpin several policy measures, such as the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules, Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR), Labelling and Digital Product Passport (DPP), the Green claims directive, as well as EPR and the WFD. We have called the ongoing waste audit method for Targeted Producer Responsibility (TPR), as we originally saw it as a more effective means for levelling a EPR fee, using the Duration of Service as the measuring stick. However, we also now have realized that taking the waste as the point of departure, has many other ramifications that can be leveraged.

The cut-off point for feedback to the WFD keeps being postponed, but we encourage everyone to respond, as a functioning EPR scheme which actually takes the waste hierarchy seriously, can be reality, if we use waste audits as the basis for eco-modulating the fee. What we urgently need is for companies to add the date of production or when the product goes to market to the brand label. Then we can look both upstream, and downstream, from the time apparel and other textiles enter the different waste streams.

A conversation with Kate Fletcher

First of all, we would like to welcome you as a colleague! This is a very happy development for Consumption Research Norway (SIFO) and our clothing research group, alongside of course, the work in the projects you have the lead of work packages. So firstly: welcome!

For such a long time, we have associated you with London College of Fashion, and now you are affiliated with three Scandinavian institutions. Is there a special affinity to this region that has resulted in this tripling of your affiliation?

Well, it is a very beautiful region! Seriously, there has been a steady – and growing –  presence in sustainability, design, fashion and textiles work in the Nordic countries over the last twenty-five years and I am now honoured to be able to connect with this work in three different institutions.

Are the other two positions very different from your role at SIFO?

All the roles are fairly distinct, drawing on different parts of my knowledge and skills. Some are more design-based, others more strategic, while the work at SIFO is more specifically linked to research projects.

Your research project, Craft of Use, brought in a new perspective on how we use our clothes in a myriad of ways; that has inspired many to rethink their relationship with clothes. How did this research lead to for example Earth Logic and your input to new research? Can you give us a ‘thread’ that weaves through your research?

The Craft of Use project started out in 2008 as a way to glimpse what ‘fashion’ might look like ‘post growth’. The idea was that in a world beyond consumerism when clothes are no longer bought mindlessly, the skills of using garments well, with dedication and care, take on new significance. These skills would become the currencies of post growth fashion, they also emphasise practices not just products and users, not just garments. Through a hybrid ethnographic-design research project the Craft of Use project connected the everyday (the lifeworld of the user), systemic questions about taken-for-granted economic and social structures, and relational potential of design to act and connect differently. Earth Logic is, I guess, an obvious continuation of this approach. It also uses a similar action research methodology and is similarly radical.

From left to right: Else Skjold, Trine Skødt, Mette Dalgaard Nielsen and Kate Fletcher. From the launch of the Klothing Research Center.

In the two projects Lasting and CHANGE, where you lead two work packages, you are looking outside the Global North concept of consumption and fashion/clothing practices with a new lens or kaleidoscope. Is this challenging to you personally and also research in general?

It is both personally challenging, and challenging to research, and necessarily so. For too long the dominant ideas in fields like fashion and sustainability have been assumed to be universal, with the assumption that no one sits outside of these ideas, beyond this epistemic territory. But with this assumption comes erasure, and denial of other perspectives, realities, possibilities etc. Looking to more plural perspectives tackle some of the biggest subjects like Western hegemony, human exceptionalism, patriarchy, but it also asks about small practical things like how writing items in a list introduces a hierarchy, which in turn introduces an inadvertent priority or power relation.

Some of the focus in Mathilda Tham’s and your Earth Logic, is about a more localized and diverse approach to clothing and fashion. I personally find this fascinating, and it resonates with so much of what needs to be in place in order “repair” our current system, if we can even repair it. Do you have any thoughts at all that you are willing to share, on systemic change within the current economic system?

Community based action is seen, time and again, as the radical basis of sustainability change. For it is in local places that lives are lived. One of the strands of work that is ongoing within Earth Logic is an exploratory project around a local fashion government. In Earth Logic, when we talk about government and governance people often think about big government, like what happens at national or pan-national levels, but what Earth Logic is interested in is at a different level. Our interest is the small sets of individual, household, community and regional decisions around organising and regulating clothing provision and expression. To be clear, this is not about what can be produced in a region, but more about how to meet needs with the clothing that we already have. This for me is systemic change. I’ll let you be the judge if it sits within the current system or not.

What do you feel should be further explored at SIFO, what themes do you see as unaddressed?

One of the critical challenges for fashion and sustainability is to tackle rising consumption volumes. I would like to get straight to heart of this challenge and to explore consuming less, and to do that with colleagues with expertise from across the SIFO family.

Kate with the CHANGE team at Finnskogen, flanked by Ingun Klepp (left), Ingrid Haugsrud, Else Skjold and Lea Gleisberg, Vilde Haugrønning in front.

Do you feel research councils understand what the actual problems are? Do you have a wish for a call you haven’t seen?

In general terms it seems research councils prefer funding projects that are similar to existing ones, that use related thinking, and aligned with established economic priorities. What I hope for is that bolder, riskier, farsighted projects will also be funded. Such projects generally create the compost that other projects then go on to sow the seeds of change in. And without the compost, other seeds of future projects will not germinate. So, this is ultimately an investment in the future.

Consumption, as a word and a concept; what do you find the most problematic and what do you find to be valuable?

Etymologically, I find the term consumption problematic, meaning, as it does, “to use up”. And in the fashion context, its strong association with the culture of consumption is antithetical to ecological balance. Yet inspired by the words of the poet and farmer Wendell Berry, I am also seeing consumption, as about husbandry. That is, the name of all practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world. It is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.

Reducing Plastic in Consumer Goods: Opportunities for Coarser Wool

Lisbeth Løvbak Berg, Ingun Grimstad Klepp, Anna Schytte Sigaard, Jan Broda, Monika Rom and Katarzyna Kobiela-Mendrek.

Abstract

Production and use of plastic products have drastically increased during the past decades and their environmental impacts are increasingly spotlighted. At the same time, coarse wool, a by-product of meat and dairy production, goes largely unexploited in the EU. This paper asks why more coarse wool is not used in consumer goods, such as acoustic and sound-absorbing products, garden products, and sanitary products. This is answered through a SWOT analysis of results from a desktop study and interviews with producers of these products made from wool, as well as policy documents relating to wool, waste, textiles, and plastic. Findings show that on a product level, the many inherent properties of wool create opportunities for product development and sustainability improvements and that using the coarser wool represents an opportunity for replacing plastics in many applications as well as for innovation. This is, however, dependent on local infrastructure and small-scale enterprises, but as such, it creates opportunities for local value chains, value creation, and safeguarding of local heritage. The shift to small-scale and local resource utilization requires systemic change on several levels: Here the findings show that policy can incentivize material usage transitions, but that these tools are little employed currently.

Click here to read the full paper (mdpi.com).

Presentation of preliminary findings from the Wasted Textiles PhD project

March 14th, 2023, 10 am to 12 noon. Athene 1 (auditorium), Pilestredet 46, OsloMet.

PhD Candidate Anna Schytte Sigaard will present preliminary findings based on data collection from 28 Norwegian households in three areas of Norway: Oslo, Vestfold and Salten. This is part of her PhD Want Not, Waste Not: A wardrobe study approach to minimizing textile waste from Norwegian households.

Each household collected textile items that they would have otherwise discarded during a period of 6 months. They participated in a start-up interview at the beginning of the collection period and two interviews about the collected textiles after 3 and 6 months. All textiles (more than 3000 pieces) were brought to SIFO for analysis where they have been registered according to different physical properties and the story for each textile, from acquisition to disposal, has been recorded.

The findings will grant insights into consumption of clothing and other textiles from households in Norway.

  • A more detailed agenda will be shared closer to the event date.
  • Snacks and coffee/tea will be provided.
  • Location: Athene 1 (auditorium), Pilestredet 46, 0170 Oslo

If you are interested in joining in person, please contact Anna Schytte Sigaard. email: annasiga@oslomet.no

It is also possible to join via Zoom, using this following link:
https://oslomet.zoom.us/j/68769021034?pwd=eEVxb1lQSW4vNkdmbDZFamNvb2x1dz09

We throw away clothes with the price tags on them

We throw away enormous amounts of clothing, and most of it contains polyester and other plastics. We need more knowledge to be able to meet the new EU requirement for separate textile collection by 2025, say researchers.

Text Kjersti Lassen/Consumption Research Norway (SIFO)

After cleaning out your wardrobe, you might be left with a pair of trousers with a huge hole in the knee, a sweater you stopped wearing a long time ago or a dress you never really ended up wearing. Where should you dispose of the clothes you want to get rid of?

In Norway you may put whole garments that are clean and functional for a new user in a container for clothing collection, but what about the damaged clothes?

– There are few other options than throwing them in the residual waste, says PhD candidate holder Anna Schytte Sigaard, part of Consumption Research Norway’s Clothing Research team.

Clothing disposal after 2025

But this will not be an option quite soon. Textiles are prioritized in the EU’s circular economy strategy, and by 2025, separate textile collection will be mandatory, also in Norway.

– In order to find out how this is to be organized, we need to know what types of textiles are actually thrown into the municipal waste or end up in other waste or collection streams, says Sigaard.

She is involved in the research project Wasted Textiles, which studies the fate of all the textiles that go out of use. Why do we throw away clothes, what do we throw away, and what do we choose to keep? What is the condition of the clothing that is thrown away, and how much is made of synthetic materials, i.e. plastic?

Because what will happen to the textiles that are collected? Can they be recycled in some way, so that the materials can be used further?

– Then we first have to find out what the clothes are made of. Material recycling is difficult, and with mixed materials it is almost impossible. The next product is almost always of poorer quality, she says.

Method: Deep dive into our waste

To find answers, the researchers have gone through our textile waste: from municipal waste, from recycling facilities where people themselves deliver clothes as waste and from apparel and textile receiving bins where interior textiles, clothes and shoes are delivered to UFF (Humana People to People) or Fretex (Salvation Army).

SIFO-researchers Lisbeth Løvbak Berg, Anna Schytte Sigaard og Kirsi Laitala are here sifting through the textile waste in a recovery station in order to analyze several things. Photo: Kristiane Rabben, Mepex

– We had to start by developing the picking analysis method, says Sigaard, which they did together with Mepex, a consulting company for waste and recycling. Dressed in protective suits and masks, they went through a total of 3,500 kilos of waste, some of it soiled, smelly and ruined, while other things were as good as new. They have looked at different types of textiles, fiber content and the condition of the garments.

– We found a surprising number of garments with the price label still on them, also at the waste recovery stations. People have thrown away completely new garments.

– Everything from the municipal waste, however, was ruined, as the textiles were mixed with food waste and everything else, and impossible to assess. Clothes in the municipal waste have no use value, she says.

SIFO-professor Ingun Grimstad Klepp heads the Wasted Textiles project, and participated in the sorting and analysis of textile waste. Photo: Lea Gleisberg/Wasted Textiles

Surprised by the amount of plastics

Two-thirds of the textiles examined contained some or mainly synthetic fibers, i.e. non-renewable materials or plastics, depending on how one likes to categorize synthetics. Polyester is the largest category, but acrylic, elastane and nylon were also prevalent.

The rest, a third of the textiles, were natural materials or what we call renewable materials, such as cotton, wool and silk. Or viscose, which is also plant-based and degradable, but has undergone intensive chemical processing.

– We were surprised by the large proportion of plastic, as we included all textiles, and found a lot of bed linen and towels, which are most often made of cotton. Still, there is an inordinate amount synthetic altogether, says Sigaard.

If we had only included clothing, there would have been an even greater proportion of plastic. Over two-thirds of all materials in textiles produced today are synthetic.

There is also reason to believe that the proportion of plastic clothing binned will increase in a few years. There is a constant growth in the production of synthetic textiles, and the clothing bought today will be thrown away in a few years. The clothes we find in the trash today have of course been bought back in time.

Analyzing over 3000 discarded clothing-items

All clothing has a label showing the fiber content. This is required by law. But how precise is this label? Investigations in other countries show that many clothes are mis-labelled and contain a greater proportion of synthetic materials than what is stated on the labels. Does this also apply in Norway?

To test this, the Wasted Textile researchers have borrowed a FabriTell fiber scanner – a small, hand-held machine that uses near-infrared analysis technology to identify the fiber composition in textiles. The researchers scanned a selection of the textiles that had been collected from the 28 households. They chose everything that was labelled as mixed fibers or not marked at all.

The FabriTell fiber scanner. Photo: Tone S. Tobiasson

– We found a lot that was mislabeled. For example, t-shirts or hoodies may be labeled as 100 percent cotton, while the scanner shows that the ribbed edges are mixed with synthetic materials. This is within the law, but gives incorrect information, says Sigaard.

We need to reduce production

All knowledge that emerges in Wasted Textiles can be used in the work to fulfill both policy issues and other incumbent requirements the new textile strategy for circular economy in the EU will spearhead. Denmark will start a separate textile collection system as early as June 2023, and hopefully Norway will follow suit in 2025.

Overproduction of clothing is made possible due to the large amount of polyester and other cheap plastic materials used by the apparel industry. This creates enormous amounts of textile waste that leach microplastics and chemicals. The waste often ends up as waste mountains in the Global South, as we have seen in the media from Chile and Ghana.

– The most important thing is to reduce the amount of waste. For this to happen, all actors in the value-chain must agree, or be forced to do so. As of now, the industry is only concerned with recycling opportunity, not reducing production, says Sigaard. In other words: Business as usual.

Recycled polyester seems to be the industry-favored answer to the current conundrum, the willingness to degrow the sector is not easy to advocate. Photo: Tone S. Tobiasson

VikingGold: Weaving History and Fashion together

Fashion met cultural history in the project VikingGold, and the two were woven together into a beautiful wool fabric, that found its way to museum exhibits and Norwegian national tv as the most sustainable fabric of the future.

During the annual event Oslo Runway, the Norwegian actress Iselin Shumba debuted as a catwalk model on a runway set up in a factory deep in the Norwegian forests close to the Swedish border. By chance I was at the event. By chance I was wearing the Oleana jacket I had worn on Norwegian national TV for the episode of Norway’s Sewing Bee (Symesterskapet) when Iselin Shumba was the “client” who wanted a jacket or coat she could wear on chilly days when she does her weekly “sit in for the climate” in front of the Parliament building in Oslo. She wanted the fabric to be “the most sustainable possible”, which was why the Norwegian national TV had called me. I’ll come back to that. 

Let’s unravel the threads back in time and explore what fascinates people with the fabric.

The story starts with the project Valuing Norwegian Wool, led by Consumption Research Norway, before they became part of Oslo Metropolitan University, and financed by the Norwegian Research Council. One of the aims of the project was to explore a label of origin for Norwegian wool. “Norwool” had been trademarked by a Swedish company, an American outerwear company had done the same with “Norwegian Wool”. In addition, a Norwegian yarn company selling cheap Chinese-spun wool of uncertain origin called their product Viking Yarn.

To our big surprise, we discovered that one of the sponsors of the British-based Campaign for Wool was “Viking Wool of Norway.” The label was even owned by a subsidiary of the Norwegian farmers’ coop, Nortura. Why hadn’t they as project-partners informed us? The truth was rather obvious. The label was ugly as sin. It had been developed in the UK to sell carpet-wool, and as such, worked well. But for wool textiles and fashion?  Curtis Wool Direct, who had developed the “Viking Wool of Norway” label, did everything in their power to launch it in Norway, including enlisting now King Charles, then the Prince of Wales, but Nortura put their foot down. Luckily.

However, this resulted in an idea, when the opportunity arose to apply for funding from KreaNord, a fund under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers for cultural projects. What if we lifted up the cultural textile heritage from the Vikings, looking at the Viking women’s role in this trader and explorer culture, later explored by Michele Hayeur Smith in “The Valkyries’ Loom: The Archeology of Cloth Production and Female Power in the Atlantic”? Read more about this book here. This was the historic beauty and heritage we highlighted in the application, and which won the funding. We decided to call the project VikingGold. 

In the project there were several partners: Consumption Research Norway (Oslo Metropolitan University), the Museum of Cultural History (University of Oslo), Nordic Initiative Clean & Ethical Fashion, and the Norwegian Fashion Institute, who took the lead. The project lasted from the autumn of 2013 until the autumn of 2015. However, VikingGold had long-term impact that was hard to envision from the outset. 

Important for the project was to create meeting points for historical expertise, raw material suppliers, and the finished goods industry and designers. These represented people and groups who had not earlier cooperated. Representatives from the industry and designers got access to historical archives and got to see preserved textiles from the Viking age, and gain knowledge about the Vikings’ clothing and textile production. Marianne Vedeler, the archaeologist in the project, was simultaneously working on a reconstruction of the tunic from Lendbreen, Norway’s oldest garment from around year 300 AD, and we chose this as a starting-point. The tunic is about 500 years older than the Viking age, but diamond twill, the weaving-pattern, was widely used in the Viking age as well. The selected tunic was thoroughly examined and well documented, and this made it possible for us to be able to show both a reconstruction (described here) and our industrially produced fabric at the same time. Our collaborators, from sheep farmers to designers, were involved in the decision-making process and the discussions themselves, and were important for enhancing competence and understanding of what compromises must be made when a historical material is to be produced in a modern way.

The wool

We had to choose a breed living in Norway today. For the reconstruction, Old Norwegian (Gammelnorsk) sheep wool were used, while the VikingGold project used Old Norse Spæl and Modern Spæl (short-tailed) to get two different shades. Ingvild Espelien at Selbu Spinning Mill took responsibility for the collection of the 200 kilos of wool from two local herds and it was also she who sorted the wool into two shades and cleaned it, and also separated some of the coarser guard hairs out of the fleeces.

Old Norse Sheep grazing on heath lands. (Photo Jan Broda/Woolume project)

Spinning

Half of the wool was sent to Hillesvåg Woolen Mill, to spin the weft yarn. Selbu Spinning Mill spun the warp yarn, and both were spun with a z twist, though the warp was a little looser spun. The thickness of the yarn corresponded to 6 nm, as 7 nm was on the border of what the machines could spin. This may appear as a minor detail, however the trade-off between being closest to the original yarn in the tunic, and getting a good raw-material with the wool and the technology we have today, was important.

The yarn spun for the fabric. (Photo: Tone S. Tobiasson)

Weaving

Ingvild sent the warp yarn first to Krivi Vev, and in order for the yarn in the weft to be as compatible as possible, it was weighed before Hillesvåg started their spinning. No one at Krivi Vev had seen the original fabric, and worked from drawings and pictures in order to set up the pattern and density. A characteristic of older textiles is often a lack of symmetry in the patterns. Krivi Vev chose to clean up the pattern a little, and also chose to distribute darker and lighter portions evenly in the weave to counteract clear stripe patterns. The yarn initially seemed more difficult to weave than it actually was. The actual weaving of the 200 meters therefore went quickly and easily. See how it went here.

Finishing

Krivi Vev has no finishing facilities at Tingvoll, and usually sends their fabrics to Sweden for these types of processes. However, Sjølingstad Woolen Mill museum (which is part of the Vest-Agder museum) assumed responsibility for the last finishing, and although the fabric was a bit too wide for their machine, this went well. We chose a very simple and easy finish, although some of the designers had requested a felted, waulked or fulled fabric (see below for how this will now be resolved). For anyone who had seen the fabric before and after treatment, it was striking how much softer and smoother the finished fabric was than when it was newly woven.

The “finished” fabric on the left is smoother and softer than the unfinished fabric in the right. (Photo: Tone S. Tobiasson)

Design

Parallel to the actual fabric production, a design competition was announced for a select group of Norwegian and Icelandic designers – and the invited sketches were then exhibited as part of Ta det personlig (Take it personally) exhibition at the Historical Museum in Oslo, where both the original Lendbre tunics, the reconstruction of the tunic and VikingGold were presented with sketches from five Norwegian and two Icelandic designers.

From the exhibit at the Historic Museum in Oslo, where the results from the VikingGold challenge were showcased, alongside the tunic from the Lendbreen glacier. (Photo: Tone S. Tobiasson)

Among these, we picked out three who got several meters of fabric and sewed outfits that were shown during the Oslo Wool Day in 2015 (Sissel Strand, Connie Riiser Berger and Elisabeth Stray Pedersen). These were also shown at an exhibition at the Coastal Museum in Florø (Exhibit Tradition and trend: Norwegian wool in all times).

From the exhibition at the Coastal Museum in Florø.

In addition, two designers have designed specific items, using the fabric: Malin Håvarstein and Rebeca Herlung, alongside Kim Holte, who received the material and has dyed it blue for her Viking re-enactment, and both Ingun Klepp and Ingvild Espelien have sewn dresses using the fabric.

A jacket detail: Designer Malin Håvarstein played with the VikingGold material in a modern context. (Photo: Håvarstein Design)

Krivi Vev has woven a similar fabric afterwards with ordinary crossbred wool, and designer Marianne Mørck made a collection using this material. Also, the furniture producer Nuen has made a series of chairs with this same fabric. They have adopted a fibershed approach, which means they source their materials within a given radius. Read more about Fibershed here.

A Nuen chair with fabric woven by Krivi Vev from wool spun at Hillesvåg Wool Spinnery. (Photo: Tone S. Tobiasson)

TV fame

After the project ended, there was still rolls of the fabric left over. The question remained what to do with these. During 2020, I was contacted by the Norwegian national broadcaster, NRK, who had the production rights for the British reality-concept Sewing Bee. They had decided that the focus for the up-coming season would be sustainability, and one of the episodes would look at the ‘most sustainable fabric of the future’. They clearly envisioned a ‘new-gen’ material, and wondered if perhaps fungi or waste from agriculture could be the feed-stock for such a material. They had already tried to get hold of materials, but had failed miserably. My suggestion was to use the VikingGold left-overs. And to turn the story-telling around into a new discourse that said “how the most sustainable fabric is not science-fiction, but rather reinventing the past”.

NRK loved the twist.

So, a few months later, I found myself on the set, explaining to the contestants, the three celebrities hosting the show and ‘the client’ Iselin Shumba about the sheep, the wool, the process and the fabric – and why it is the epitome of sustainability. All the contestants received a material-piece in order to trial sewing, as some of the designers we had worked with the material, said it did take some getting used to and offered some resistance. When the show aired a year later, the fantastic results rolled across the tv-screen and the winning coat/jacket was chosen by the Shumba, who posted pictures of her wearing it over and over again on Instagram. Which, of course, made it even more sustainable. However, how happy she was with the result I didn’t hear before much later, when she debuted as a catwalk-model a year later.

Iselin Shumba in her VikingGold jacket. (Photo: Private)

Latest development

During a conference at Selbu Spinning mill in October 2022, an American student from Rauland Academy for Traditonal Art and Folk Music, presented work with fulling (or waulking) textiles with old techniques. We decided rather on a whim, to send him 10 meters of the VikingGold material to experiment with. He will be doing both “foot-fulling” and a trial with a wooden box he has reconstructed from old instructions, and document this for further research. So far he has reported that the VikingGold material offered much resistance to be fulled.

As we round up this story, how Iselin Shumba has chosen to use social media to promote climate change, to make a cultural sustainability aspect the main story – is stellar.