The Dutch Denim Deal, a project launched in 2020 by the Dutch government, is drawing a balance two years after its foundation. The initiative, created in line with the European Green Deal and Circular Action Plan, aims to collectively set up a reverse value chain that enables the collecting, sorting, and recycling of textile garments to be used as fiber input.
Nicolas Prophte, VP sourcing, production & innovation denim, PVH, key promoter of the project, and Roosmarie Ruigrok, Denim Deal coordinator, explained The SPIN OFF how the initiative has been evolving.
Among brands and companies that have already joined the Deal there are Scotch&Soda, Mud Jeans, JOG, 247 Jeans and PVH Europe. Along with them, there are also stakeholders including denim mills like, Bossa, Calik, Orta Anadolu, Kipas, Soorty, Isko, DNM Textiles Egypt and Sharabati Denim.
Some slow, but significant result is showing up. By the end of 2021 a total of more than 464,000 pieces (26% of the total goal) were produced according to requested standards including the use of at least 5% PCR, 18% more than in 2020.
The participating brands and retailers have put a total of 1.1 million jeans on the Dutch market in 2021. From the volume put on the Dutch market by participants, more than 395,000 jeans (36%) contained at least 20% PCR-cotton. This is a relatively small part of the amount of jeans put on the Dutch market annually. However, the volume of jeans with 20% PCR increased from 8% in 2020 to 36% in 2021.
Among future perspectives, most participating brands and retailers expect to achieve 5% PCR in their own denim garments in 2023, by working closely with other signatories. Among participants, one company expects to achieve this result already in 2022.
Most brands and retailers (seven out of eight) have set their own, more ambitious goals for PCR content in denim garments than the aimed new industry standard of 5%. Their individual goals vary up from 7% up to 100% by the end of 2023.
Nicolas Prophte, PVH, and Roosmarie Ruigrok, Denim Deal coordinator, have shared some comments and clarified some aspects of the project.
Nicolas Prophte: The Denim Deal is a unique, collaborative initiative between public authorities like, for instance, the Dutch government, and private companies, all working towards a shared goal and vision around circularity.
The Denim Deal connects participants across the denim supply chain and allows them to share and learn from each other. Starting as a Dutch initiative, the Deal is growing internationally, now with more than 41 signatories to date. Since joining, PVH Europe has created a good dynamic in the community.
What are companies and brands doing while joining the Deal? Do they meet periodically or simply follow some rules and then communicate them to a sort of directing team?
NP: PVH Europe is part of the steering committee, which organizes sessions and network meetings for the group to come together. There are also working groups on specific topics, including transport and quality guidelines, to dive deeper into developing action plans and targets.
How can the use of PCR become scalable?
NP: One of the main issues raised during the monitoring process was the need to access sufficient and quality feedstock. Industrial scale-up is necessary: sorting processes are often still manual, so innovation is needed; while recycling is still small-scale, it would benefit from investing in better techniques. We hope to implement different projects and collaborations with the Denim Deal to create stepping-stones toward making PCR scalable.
Is anyone testing the quality of products made with PCR?
NP: One of the key opportunities that became clear from the monitoring process is the need for quality standards. NEN (Dutch Royal Netherlands Standardization Institute) is a signatory of the Denim Deal, and one of the workshops focuses on how denim mills can guarantee the same quality fabrics while using 20% PCR fibers in their cotton blends.
PVH Europe, for instance, requires the same physical properties as virgin cotton, so it is crucial not to compromise quality while engaging in circularity. As a premium fashion brand, we have very strict protocols to ensure our denim mills uphold our quality standards.
How could the targets set by the Dutch Denim Deal be reached if - they say - there is a shortage of PCR cotton at the moment?
RR: Brands have existing and long-established contracts with their denim fabric producers and are therefore able to secure some supply. We are not currently facing a specific shortage, but together with the collectors in the Denim Deal, we are working to improve the supply of high-quality feedstock for our denim mill partners.
How do companies and members communicate among themselves or try to solve problems?
RR: Meetings are organized by the contacting coordinator or steering committee members, and we also operate through a LinkedIn page.
Who decides the standards to reach?
RR: Goals were determined at the start of the Denim Deal by a group of experts. Every signatory had to agree to these before joining the Denim Deal.
How is Dutch Denim Deal also trying to involve and inform the consumer?
RR: Each brand has their own unique marketing plans and priorities. There is no common approach.
How can more brands and companies be involved in this project?
RR: The monitoring has demonstrated the importance of working together with a collaborative mindset. The group continues to grow through engaging with different stakeholders in the supply chain.
We are looking at how the Denim Deal could reach international brands and have a larger impact on the denim industry.