Reverse Resources – an Estonian startup operating in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and China – estimates that up to 47% of all fabric and fibre get wasted at different stages of production in the textile industry. Luckily, they are providing a solution.
Despite of this technologically advanced era filled with global awareness campaigns, mindless incineration and landfill sites-dumping of waste still remain a major global challenge.
Reverse Resources (RR) offers a sustainable solution to the textile waste management problem by developing an online marketplace ‘that enables industrial upcycling of textile waste by connecting textile and garment factories with scrap traders, recycling plants and upcycle designers.’ With this solution, RR unlocks new business opportunities while also encouraging greener earth by introducing digitalisation, transparency, traceability, data collation, networking, and zero-waste production to textile waste management.
Recognising the potential
For Ann Runnel, Reverse Resources’ founder and CEO, it all started with some series of questions. “Why do some companies put sustainability as their core focus and then change their business strategy because of that? What are the intentions? And what do they gain from it?” Those were her master’s degree thesis questions. While researching this, she came across several textile industries’ case studies that ended up being the catalyst that catapulted her into the world of textile waste-based eco-innovation. Her background in economics later drove the stemming question of how a circular economy within the textile industry could be set up profitably and efficiently on a global scale for waste management.
“At some point after stumbling on some textile industries’ case studies, I started to work with an upcycle fashion designer who was using leftover fabrics for her designs. I had the opportunity to visit Bangladesh with her, and discovered a massive volume of waste. Then, I realised that it wasn’t just the upcycle designing angle that could help it. I got interested in the economic side and how we could create economic incentives from wasted textile resources. That was where I started,” she explains.
360° transparency of textile waste flow
RR uses a supply-chain tracking and trading technology to connect the manufacturers (textile and garment makers), the waste handlers, recyclers, and upcycle designers to make circular waste handling and usage easier for all stakeholders involved. It is an effective and user-friendly tool that all stakeholders in the textile and garment production industry can comfortably use to develop and implement a shift towards zero-waste production. In addition, Reverse Resources provides 360-degree transparency of waste flow by overseeing the chain process – from waste track-down to waste drop-off.
“Reverse Resources holds the key to a large global network of critical stakeholders. We match the supply and demand, break down market barriers, shorten supply chains, thereby increasing value along the way. We help to bring down the cost of textile-fabric recycling and support the scale-up of the circular economy,” Ann notes.
The pivotal moment
The last decade was incredibly pivotal for Reverse Resources. Firstly, RR won the Global Change Award by the H&M Conscious Foundation at the early stage of the startup. The 150,000 EUR awarded “opened all doors for us to peek into the world of large fashion brands and understand the global supply chain. This then introduced us to the dialogue of how we could scale things up,” Ann Runnel says. And so, the startup, which had started as an initiative to help upcycle designers save costs, evolved into an intricate textile waste tracking-trading platform that included global fashion brands as stakeholders.
Acceleration by the pandemic
According to Ann, the pandemic created many opportunities for all kinds of circular platforms, Reverse Resources included. “It (the pandemic) is kind of like a restart of the economy. This coronavirus situation brought us back to the leftover garments (deadstock) issue…which we initially started with. We now have an opportunity that we didn’t have before. So, in addition to the cutting scraps, we’re again investigating the space of deadstock fabrics but from a completely different angle than what we had before. Without the pandemic, I think it would have taken us another two years to get started,” she explains.
Running solely on grants and awards
A unique startup – for over six years, RR has been successfully running solely on grants and awards. “So, we have, over the past six years, got roughly a million EUR out of which 300K have been coming as convertible notes, and the rest, grants and awards. And now, we are just closing our first seed round with equity investors,” she says, smiling.
Also, at the height of the green wave, numerous companies, including large fashion brands, started announcing their goals to become 100% circular. Reverse Resources found this as the opportunity to offer them the circular textile waste tracking and trading platform. Since the platform brought together the textile-fabric waste supply and demand chain, it made waste management more accessible and cost-effective. It also encouraged them to totally switch to sustainable waste management.
Full circularity in the textile industry by 2030
Reverse Resources has managed to crack its business case, market value proposition, reach several countries, including the big textile/fabric markets like Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and China and offer a sustainable solution that can bid a final goodbye to textile and deadstock wastage.
What Reverse Resources aims to achieve with all these is full circularity in the textile industry by 2030. With an extensive textile waste management network that already has 40 recyclers, seven waste handlers, and 945 manufacturers as part of its tracking and trading platform, the vision 2030 is already turning into a reality.