Renewcell: A Springboard Not a Hurdle 

Lessons Learned and Actions Moving Forward 

Conference season is upon us! Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen, and Circularity 24 in Chicago both start this week. As these conferences move into high gear, the buzz around Renewcell’s future is building as we await the forthcoming announcement from its new owner.  

As the first of its kind commercial textile-to-textile recycling facility, we know that everyone is eager for answers about the mill. There will be no conversation about circular, low-impact, material integration at these conferences without talking about Renewcell. 

Canopy has been there for every step of the Renewcell journey, including deep work with the management team, brands, and supply chain partners. From this unique vantage point, we’ve gleaned a lot of learnings.  

Highlights: 

  • Status quo production will not change with only one part of the system changing and everything else remaining static. Although there may be some “drop in elements” each partner in the value chain must be prepared to step outside the norm, if only in the early stages, to work with others along the chain. Paradoxically, a pre-competitive mindset may be necessary to set up opportunities for a competitive advantage at a later phase. 
  • Governments are nearly invisible in this space at the commercialization phase — and supporting tax policies and financial incentives focused on commercial-scale production could play a breakthrough role in making circular manufacturing innovations mainstream. 
  • Next Gen Solutions are the next frontier for impact-motivated investors or infrastructure-inclined capital. Renewcell had four months at scale and spec before it started having significant cash pressures. A broader pool of committed investors — including equity and debt — is needed to unlock these game-changing solutions with capital depth and long game patience for successful scale-up. 
  • For early-to-market innovators, it will be key for brands, spinners, and fibre producers to coalesce around a simplified supply chain in the initial stages. A single blend, a focused group of suppliers, and fewer sets of textiles will help all actors along the manufacturing chain to achieve optimized production. Larger volume runs will provide the opportunity to produce consistent product at more competitive price points. 
  • Next Gen mills don’t operate in isolation. They are part of an industrial ecosystem — and the feedstock part of this ecosystem needs the proper systems and supports to ensure accessibility and transparency. Municipalities and governments in particular stand to benefit from scaling textile diversion away from landfill and should be participating in aggregation and sorting programs. This will reduce the raw material costs for a circular manufacturing sector, which is competing against wood fibre that is highly subsidized and has been off-loading the costs onto the environment for decades. 

Click here for our detailed “lessons learned”, and how this analysis is shaping our work – and that of the sector – moving forward. This has been a powerful learning moment for all of us within the sector and broader movement as we strive to “fail forward“ and build a smoother runway for other Next Gen innovators ready to scale. These insights have been gleaned from our own observations of working day-in and day-out with Renewcell as well as many brands and producers as well as from many conversations with partners throughout the value chain. We offer them as a starting point for all of us to engage more effectively moving forward, as new Next Gen alternatives look to scale. In the meantime, let’s hope (and rally!) for Renewcell’s low-carbon circular capacity to stay online. Thank you to everyone in the value chain who is stepping forward — for your commitment and leadership in the transition to Next Gen Solutions at scale.  

Photo Credits: Renewcell