From sustainability targets to actions - Lindström develops the closed-loop for textiles

By 2025, Lindström Group will recycle 100 percent of its textile waste. Currently the company is conducting a pilot project developing a closed-loop recycling system for textiles.

"In 2019, when we set a target to recycle 100 percent of our textile waste, we did not actually know how it could be done. We did not have the means, but when you delve into something and commit to it, you start finding solutions. Now our objective for 2025 is fully attainable" Juha Laurio, CEO at Lindström, says happily. Textile service company Lindström rents work­wear, hotel and restaurant textiles, and mats, among other things. The company is a forerunner in circular economy both in Finland and on a global scale: it began renting textiles already in the 1930s. Therefore, the core element of the whole business is revolved around the principles of circular economy and sharing economy.

Some of its competitors regard Lindström's efforts into circular economy as competitive advantage.

"This is how I see it: if you don't stay alert with matters of sustainability, your business collapses. It's not about having a competitive factor. It's a condition for the entire business," says Laurio.

Planning based on recyclability

"Lindström has been involved with downcycling for a long time. To be more specific, the company recycles a product that has come to an end of its lifespan transforming it into another product. For example, a sheet is made into an absorbent mat. The next objective for the company is upcycling. It is a process where a used product can be recycled to be used as a material that is equally valuable or obtaining an even greater value than before." Laurio continues  "Together with our partners we aim to develop increas­ingly more materials, which will be easier to recycle later. When testing new recycled materials, for example, for workwear, it is important to make sure you come up with a textile that is durable and has a long lifespan. There is no point in recycling something that is not long-lasting in use. In the last couple of years, together with its local recycling partners, Lindström has managed to find solu­tions even for the products that are the most difficult to recycle. These include technical workwear and mats."

Promising pilots pave the way for closed-loop systems

Juha LaurioPilot projects aimed at closed-loop processes are already well underway. Rester, a Finnish company recycling Lind­ström's discarded textiles, and fabric supplier Klopman are working closely to increase the percentage of recy­cled fibre in new workwear fabric. The fibre is obtained from Lindström's textile waste. The first workwear fabric resulting from this co-operation has already been put through wash tests to assess durability and quality. Co-operation with another fabric supplier is fur­ther along in the process: the first hotel and restaurant workwear collection made using recycled fibre from discarded textiles has already been launched. The design and pattern making also took into account minimising cutting waste, for example, by utilising it for the apron pockets.

"I am confident that, together with our partners, we will be able to create textile materials that have fibres that do not shorten when recycled. A lot of work still lies ahead but a realistic timeframe for seeing results in creating a closed-loop system is somewhere at the end of this decade," Laurio says.

Best recycling technologies are scalable

Laurio is pleased with the number of new start-up com­panies in Finland revolved around recycling and manu­facturing of materials.

"It's clear that all technologies currently being developed are not going to be successful. Therefore, it is important to actively participate in the development and be there to offer help. We are a great sparring partner for start-ups because we set the bar high. The best solutions are efficient as well as scalable. Those are the ones we are interested in finding."-said Mr Laurio

One of the important partnerships the company has, is with Rester, the company that recycles discard­ed textiles. Lindström Group became its second-largest owner in 2022.

"Rester was a strategic investment for us. It helps us ac­celerate the development of textile recycling," Laurio commented.

Entire supply chain to be included in the emission reduction targets

Lindström has committed to the Science Based Targets initiative, which helps companies set ambitious and plau­sible greenhouse emission reduction targets covering the entire value chain. Often most of the emissions of the company are generated outside its own operations, for example, by the subcontractors. At Lindström, this figure is around 70 percent. For that reason, it is important to get the entire partner network involved and committed to the reduction of emissions.

"We have various operators in our supply chain, both be­fore and after us. Not many companies are able to alone sort out the sustainable of their practices or imple­ment a business model that adheres to circular economy principles. This is why we collaborate closely both with fabric manufacturers and recycling companies, and also help them in making their operations more sustainable" Laurio stated.

Lindström operates in 23 countries and imple­ments the same approach in each one. This means that the aim is to have the manufacturing and recycling of textiles take place as near as possible to the clients.

"We search for the necessary partners within our oper­ating area instead of shipping textiles across the world. Our operation model also improves security of supply, which is a decision that proved its worth given the global situation over the last few years. Ambitious partners are truly needed in this work, and a change in attitude can be noted. A few years ago, the suppliers in China showed no in­terest in sustainability. Now, they are the first ones to ask about it. The pace of change is rapid" said Mr Laurio.

Responsibility practices create a virtuous cycle

Lindström's rigorous operations in sustainability and re­ports on its progress began decades ago. It was not typical for companies back then. Laurio says it has partially contributed to attracting personnel that consider sustainability matters important.

Mr Laurio commented, " this has created positive feelings. We don't have to motivate our personnel with respect to sustainability. It's quite the opposite. There is pressure on the management so that things move forward quickly. Laurio sees the business interest in sustainability. When textiles are long-lasting, and the maintenance re­quires as little water and energy as possible, it also means reduced costs for the client. Moreover there is a financial, environmental and social aspect to sustainable practices,  and when you improve one of these, it adds to the other two. It's difficult to see adverse economic ef­fects in investing in more responsible practices. You can see those only if you are looking too near into the future. We as a company with a 175-year-old history, are used to looking farther away into the future." 

Price competitiveness with responsibility

Legislation, the market, and clients are all putting pres­sure on companies to invest into sustainability. It also affects investor interest as well as customer behaviour.

"The company must have a determined mindset and clear objectives to go after. Sustainability in company operations is not something that happens on its own or by accident. Laurio encourages companies to look into the Science Based Targets initiative. It acts as a great starting point because the company is compelled to examine its entire operation. The results will form a basis for plan­ning operational measures. In our operations, being sustainable contributes directly by improving price competitiveness." concluded Laurio.

This article was submitted to ETSA by the team at Lindström and translated from Finnish to English, it was originally published in the Fab magazine of the Finnish Textile & Fashion organisation. Special thanks to Juha Laurio and Leena Kähkönen. If you are ETSA member and would like to submit a story, please contact, Nikolas Schulze-Makuch, the Communications Coordinator. 


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