During the last August edition of Munich Fabric Start the round table "Manteco X Marc O'Polo – Recycled Wool as a Key for Circular Fashion" took place. Participating the talk were Marco Mantellassi, co-CEO, Manteco, Prof. Marzia Traverso, full professor and director of Institute of Sustainability in Civil Engineering (INaB), RWTH Aachen University, Simone Sommer, head of sustainable materials & innovation, Marc O’Polo. Moderating the talk was Maria Cristina Pavarini, senior features editor international, The SPIN OFF/Textilwirtschaft.





During the talk the speakers explained how they archived more sustainable products, what is a LCA (Lifecycle Assessment) and what role it can play, and what future goals and projects they want to achieve. The SPIN OFF selected some key statements from the talk.

Panel overview
Photo: Munich Fabric Start
Panel overview
Marco Mantellassi: “My brother and me work as CEOs in our family company that started operating in 1941. We have quite an important history in wool and cashmere recycling. For us, it’s important speaking about recycling and what is behind all this, as not all the circular economy businesses are the same.” 





Simone Sommer: “At Marc O'Polo, we have established a holistic approach to tackle the challenges to create products that are more sustainable. Our strategy is based on ten pathways that include each and every aspect of the company.”





“We know Manteco and the team since quite some time. We have used other fabrics in wool and wool blends before. Now, we started this special collaboration collection with Manteco’s MWool because it contributes to our sustainability goals to use certified recycled fibers on the one hand and, on the other hand, obtaining valid and reliable data about the impacts of a fiber is important, too.





“Material sourcing plays an integral role in our strategy. Our comittment is to source only preferred fibers that contribute to our goals by 2023. Certified recycled fibers are part of it.  Meanwhile, we have also moved forward to achieve climate neutrality."





“We look at our emissions from two angles–corporate carbon footprint, and product carbon footprint. After a careful evaluation, we will take measures to incrementally lower the footprint of a product in a first step, and then offset the remaining impact in a second step. In the near future, circular products and services will additionally help us to achieve this goal.”

Simone Sommer, Marc'O Polo
Photo: Munich Fabric Start
Simone Sommer, Marc'O Polo
Marzia Traverso: “The word “sustainable” is complex as it implies three different aspects - social, environmental and economic - and not just the environmental or carbon-neutral ones. Similarly, when we speak about circularity not all circularities or every circular product are necessarily sustainable, they simply imply that only less resources have been used.”





MM: “Manteco is a lucky company because my grandfather started recycling blankets in 1941, so we didn't have to rebuild anything in the recent times as it was already equipped and ready to operate according to responsible criteria. Years ago, me and my brother started implementing how we recycle old fabrics. In the beginning, we offered poor quality fabrics, and customers chose them only for their lower prices. But soon after, we increased the quality of our wool and cashmere fabrics by establishing our sustainability and innovation department and brought our products to the next level. That’s why in the last years we have been working with fashion groups like Kering, LVMH and Fast Retailing.”




“These groups are buying recycled materials from us, as they don't find the difference between textiles made with recycled or new wool. Our strategy was to bring fabrics made with recycled materials to the same level of richness of new wool ones. Though at the same time we could provide sound figures about the impact of our recycling process, for instance by achieving an LCA.”





“We started our process of LCA through very deep analysis carried ahead in the US, as most of our pre- and post-consumer waste come from there, together with Europe. It was a long way, but finally we have succeeded to demonstrate scientifically that our recycled wool reached very low impact scores in terms of water and energy consumption, when compared with virgin wool fabrics. Plus we use mechanical systems to recycle wool, therefore we don’t use any chemicals and this makes a difference.”

Marco Mantellassi, Manteco
Photo: Munich Fabric Start
Marco Mantellassi, Manteco
SS: “In Sustainability we have different criteria it’s not only environmental sustainability social responsibility and, unfortunately being a company dealing with the free market, we also need to make money, for this we are improving step by step. We started quite holistically and like in a journey we want to proceed and touch all different business operations. So it is not only in fiber, fabric and product research, but also logistics, packaging and transportation.”





MT: “An LCA is a more than a certification. Its final result can also be a certification, but more broadly an LCA shows the approach of a company to production. This methodology is standardized and gives the pathway to access the environmental imprint of a product from anylising its raw materials to end of life.”





“A company can use a LCA in different ways. It can use it once a product is done just to know that product’s impact, and then maybe it can focus on one aspect of a product like, for instance, its carbon footprint on the planet, or on the water consumption, for instance.

Marzia Traverso, RWTH Aachen University
Photo: Munich Fabric Start
Marzia Traverso, RWTH Aachen University
“A LCA can be used, for instance, for internal use inside a company for decision makers. So they can start making an estimation about how your next product will be like. Think, for instance, of a jacket and think of what innovative material you want to use, then try to understand what is their impact and make an estimation… And then once could analyze what other impact similar alternative materials might have. Then a company could try to negotiate with its supplier and try to make the best out of it. 





“Information from a LCA could remain internally and should not necessarily be spread out of the company. It’s your business, and you can use a LCA to study the way to improve it.”





“Once you publish a result, then you need at least a critical review. And if you want to directly compare it with another product, for instance in the automotive with a previous model, that critical review can be published to communicate how much lower is that new product's carbon footprint.”







SS: MOP didn’t undergo an LCA because the LCA is a method for the material. We have not made a lifecycle analisys of the products we are creating, but we would like to do an LCA about how our products are used by our customers for the product we are creating, as we would like to have a say on a product total footprint from cradle to cradle. Though it requires a lot of data collecting and many of us would be also looking for transparency in the supply chain.” 





MT: “A recycled product is not necessarily sustainable as, for instance, collecting the different materials and transporting them might have a very high impact. That’s why sustainability is not a gut matter, but you need sure data and information. Therefore, you need to compare different scenarios to compare products.”





MM: “Undergoing an LCA is expensive. We started six years ago, and we had to go to our US suppliers, and now we still have a long way to go. The LCA is not achieved once forever, and you have to continue studying and comparing. You have to use resources and take consultancies, go around, travel, make audits and hire people. Manteco did quite a big investment into that. But at the end it was very important for us to provide our customers our exact numbers.”





MT: “A LCA needs to be updated, but how often it depends. At the beginning it could be a big challenge as the screening could be complex and long, but once you do at the end you have a good estimation and know when you reach different results. So first you might fix your target and how much would be that reduction, and then at the end you could check if you reached that result.”

Panel overview
Photo: Munich Fabric Start
Panel overview
MM: “Only 2% of clothes can be recycled today. Through our Manteco Academy initiative, students attending fashion universities we are teaching what it means exactly to recycle and to be recyclable, both equally important factors.”





SS: “Our investments in this area are truly paying off. I participated personally to events and meetings with customers and people are awake on such aspects like, for instance, energy costs, feedstock costs, and they are actively promoting the use of recycled materials.”





MT: “The cost of an LCA? It all depends. First, it depends upon the knowledge a company already has of its own energy, environmental data used by the company and within its supply chain. In fact, the heaviest costs in terms of costs is the collection of the data - as most of it to do has to be done directly.”





“An LCA cost could €10,000 - €300,000 or €60,000 it depends on the data, on the length of the supply chain on the size of the company and on the complexity of the product. For textiles, it is one thing, if you have more textiles it is even more complex and also if there are chemicals that’s even different. Though, once you learn how to do it, you can internalize this part of the work by hiring someone who continues to collect information and data.”





SS: “Among our goals, we want to become climate neutral. We want to shift every aspect of our products and practices towards better and less damaging ones to actively doing good - and we know it’s a journey.”

“In terms of circularity we are analyzing which products can be designed in a better way enabling and understanding what is happening at the end of life. First thing is to understand what is happening at each different fiber, what fibers can be actually recycled and also at a scaled level, including the nitty-gritty details of details, garment construction and prototypes.”

From left: Traverso (RWTH Aachen University), Sommer (Marc'O Polo), Pavarini (Textil Wirtschaft/The SPIN OFF)
Photo: Munich Fabric Start
From left: Traverso (RWTH Aachen University), Sommer (Marc'O Polo), Pavarini (Textil Wirtschaft/The SPIN OFF)
MT: “In analyzing sustainability there are three fundamental aspects - environmental, economic and social. We are actually working much on social assessment which is about social conditions of workers, and the local community conditions. Through it, companies can demonstrate the benefits and higher value of made in Europe because here we take care of our workers within the community together with the environment.” 




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