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December 2022

Circling the Square of Fashion

The apparel industry is trying to make itself more sustainable, in response to consumer demand and potential regulatory changes. This includes taking more responsibility for the garments sold.

Many brands are implementing, or planning to implement, take-back programs, which should allow people to send back, instead of throwing away, the garments they no longer wear. Brands usually promise to resell or recycle garments in a responsible fashion that avoids waste and pollution. A few of the young companies helping brands implement take-back programs include For Days, Yellow Octopus, SuperCircle, and ReCircled.

To become a regular habit for consumers, the take-back programs need to make it easy for people to send back their used garments. To become the norm for the industry, the take-back programs also need to be profitable, or at least cost neutral, for the brands. Their success will depend on finding ways to capture the value from the resale, the increased consumer engagement, or from recycling the fibers.

Companies like ThredUP and TheRealReal have benefited from the growth of secondhand and consignment markets for clothing and fashion accessories. The resale value needs to offset the cost of shipping the garments back, sorting, cleaning, photographing, listing, selling, and delivering the garments to their new owners. Because of these costs, resale tends to be profitable mostly for gently used items with a relatively high original price, which represents a relatively limited portion of the total number of garments sold.

The portion of returned apparel that cannot be resold domestically, is usually sold on a per pound basis and is often again sorted to be either shipped for overseas second-hand markets, or for recycling. Post-consumer textiles can be shredded and turned into non-woven mats of fibers that can be used as insulation or filling in various applications.

Shredded fibers are a low-value product and there are efforts underway to develop a fiber-to-fiber recycling system so that discarded garments can be turned back into yarn for new apparel. To reclaim a much larger portion of the apparel waste we need innovation in apparel design, garment and fiber sorting, and fiber re-processing. Examples of companies working on different parts of this system include: Resortecs (clothing that is easier to dissemble), Looptworks (manage and recycle fibers), and Refiberd (using IR technology to sort post-consumer apparel by fiber type). Eventually, fibers should end up with chemical recyclers like Circ, Ambercycle, Renewcell, and Evernu to be turned into new fibers.

We expect that both people and apparel brands are going to continue their journeys towards sustainability, and this will create demand for technologies and services that address the needs at all stages of this emerging circular system.

Safer Made Gift Ideas

  • Gift performance wool from NuyarnKuiu, Artilect, Wuru.

  • Join the circular apparel ecosystem –

  • Party with purpose - and Repurpose Amazon Store.

  • Fight the cold and flu season - and Force of Nature Amazon Store.

  • Get hair care without plastic -

  • Defunkify your laundry and dishes - and Defunkify Amazon Store.

  • PFAS free apparel using GTT’s Empel chemistry - Black Diamond.

  • PTFE free gloves using Dimpora’s membranes - SnowLife (Europe only for now).


Adwoa Beauty, a hair care brand with clean ingredients, raised $4 million.

AgroSphere, developer of biological pesticides, raised $22 million.

AlgiKnit, developer of durable and rapidly degradable yarns for textiles from kelp, raised $13 million.

3Bee, a company with products that improve bee health and protect biodiversity, raised $5.2 million.

Bravo Sierra, provider of personal care products, raised $17 million.

Circ, a company that recycles apparel waste (cotton, polyester and cotton-polyester blends) back into fibers, raised $30 million.

CleanFiber, a company that turns used cardboard boxes into cellulose insulation, raised $10 million.

Cruz Foam, developer of chitosan-based protective packaging foam, raised $18 million.

Current Foods, a company developing plant-based tuna and salmon alternatives, raised $18 million.

Dae Hair, a premium hair care brand made with clean ingredients, raised $8 million.

EcoCart, a company that performs product life cycle audits for carbon emissions, raised $14.5 million.

Eat Just, the developer of plant-based alternatives to egg products, raised $25 million.

Evolved By Nature, maker of a bio-engineered silk product, raised $120 million.

Everdrop, a developer of plastic-free household and personal care products based in Europe, raised $80 million.

Fyto, an ag-tech company making feed from aquatic plants, raised $15 million.

Happy Viking, a company making plant-based "superfoods," raised $2 million.

Impacked, a marketplace for sustainable CPG packaging, raised $2.5 million.

iNNBeauty Project, a skincare brand making vegan and cruelty-free products, raised $12 million.

Liquid Death, the canned sparkling and spring water, raised $70 million.

Medu, creator of a line of sustainable, virus-resistant reusable personal protective equipment (PPE), raised $4 million.

Mermade Seafoods, a manufacturer of cell-based scallops alternatives, raised$3.3 million.

Micropep, a developer of crop protection products based on peptides, raised €8.75 million.

Millie, a company creating a next-generation maternity clinic, raised $4 million.

Monolith Materials, a company producing hydrogen and carbon black via methane pyrolysis, raised $300 million.

Mycotech Lab, maker of an alternative vegan leather, raised $1.2 million.

Nitricity, a company that produces nitrogen fertilizer using only air, water, and renewable energy, raised $20 million.

Nuclera, developer of bench-top protein printing technologies, raised $42.5 million.

Octopus, a waste reduction and recycling company based in Jakarta, has raised $5 million.

Ostara, manufacturer of sustainable fertilizers, raised $70 million.

Oxwash, a provider of commercial laundry products, raised $11.6 million.

Path Water, a company selling bottled water in a refillable, recyclable aluminum container, raised $30 million.

Planted, a producer of vegan meat alternative, raised $71.6 million.

Protein Evolution, a company that recycles textile and mixed-plastic waste into a reusable resource, raised $20 million.

Puna Bio, a developer of biological inputs for agriculture based on extremophiles, raised $3.7 million.

The Rounds, a sustainability-minded home restocking service, raised $38 million.

Samsara Eco, provider of an enzyme-based technology to break down plastic, raised $54 million AUD.

SiTration, creator or a filtration membrane technology for the extraction lithium, cobalt, and nickel from recycled electric vehicle batteries, raised $2.35 million.

Serenity EHS, a software company that helps clients monitor their environmental, health, safety and sustainability goals, raised $5 million.

Solugen, a bio-based specialty chemicals company, raised $200 million.

Sortera Alloys, producer of aluminum packages from shredded automobiles, raised $10 million.

SURI, creator of a carbon-neutral sustainable sonic toothbrush, raised $2.3 million.

Terra CO2 Technologies, a company developing low carbon alternative to cement, raised $46 million.

Tozero, a battery recycling company, raised €3.5 million.

Topicals, a fast-growing skincare brand at Sephora, raised $10 million.

Transaera, make of a sponge-like material to grab moisture from the atmosphere, raised $4.5 million

IPOs and Acquisitions

Henkel acquired NBD Nanotechnologies, a developer of functional coatings. Terms were not disclosed.

3E, a provider of compliance solutions for chemical and workplace safety, product stewardship and sustainable supply chains, acquired Toxnot, a software as a service (SaaS) platform that focused on ingredient transparency and sustainability in the supply chain. Terms were not disclosed.

Also Noted

  • Awards hat trick for P2 Science from Alle, BSB, and BeautyMatter.

  • Defunkify’s new dish detergent.

  • Marty unwrapping food’s plastic problem with colleagues at Foodprint.

  • Advisor Mia Davis recognized by Vogue as a beauty innovator.

  • ChemSec’s ranking the world’s top chemical producers.

  • Johnson & Johnson to end sales of talc-based baby powder.

  • PFAS is in toilet paper.

  • The cost of PFAS exposure.

  • 3M to Exit PFAS Manufacturing by the End of 2025.


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