A Royal College of Art-led consortium has been awarded a grant of £5.4m by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to establish a Textiles Circularity Centre to help enable the transition towards a more ‘circular’ economy. 

Funded by the UK government as part of the UKRI’s Strategic Priorities fund, the Textiles Circularity Centre will be one of five Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres helping industries across the UK to tackle waste, boost recycling and build back greener from coronavirus.

The new Textiles Circularity Centre aims to reduce a reliance on imported, and environmentally and ethically impactful clothing materials, and develop new ‘designed and made in the UK’ industries. It will lead research to turn post-consumer textiles, crop residues and household waste into renewable materials for use in textiles, developing new UK-based supply chains from waste management and farming through to textile production and design and consumer experience.

Director of the Royal College of Art’s Materials Science Research Centre, Professor Sharon Baurley, will run the Textiles Circularity Centre in collaboration with scientists and researchers from Cranfield University, University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Leeds, University of Manchester and University of York, and from the RCA’s Computer Science Research Centre and School of Communication.

Sharon commented: “The environmental and human costs of fashion are huge. Covid-19 has brought into sharp relief the link between human activity and damage to the environment. The time is ripe to explore an alternative model for fashion-apparel.

“Our Circular Economy system design proposes to do just that by introducing a new relationship between materials and human wellbeing, and by innovating circular fibres and textiles for the UK – and global – SME fashion industry.”

Through the Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres Programme, five state-of-the-art research centres located in London, Loughborough and Exeter will explore how the reuse of waste materials in the textiles industry, as well as in the construction, chemicals, transport, electronics and metal industries, can protect the environment and boost the UK economy.

Rebecca Pow, minister at the department for environment, food and rural affairs, added: “Creating a more circular economy for our waste and resources lies at the heart of this government’s transformative agenda for the environment, and we are committed to going further and faster to reduce, reuse and recycle more of our resources.

“These new research centres will play a vital part in creating a cleaner and more sustainable economy, and help us to better protect the environment for the next generation.”