Best of: Earth911 Podcast: SuperCircle Breaks the Textiles Logjam

SuperCircle, a textiles recycling startup, has cracked the circular economy code for fashion brands. Meet Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum, co-founders of SuperCircle, which provides clothing takeback and recycling services to leading clothing brands, including tentree, Reformation, Mate the Label, and the circular sneaker brand Thousand Fell — which Songer and Ahlum also co-founded in 2018. SuperCircle launched in 2022 to a massive problem, managing recycling logistics and textiles processing for the retail industry. The company recycled more than 700,000 garments last year using new sorting steps and technologies to separate organic and synthetic fabrics and identify items that can be resold.

Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum, co-founders of SuperCircle and Thousand Fell
Chloe Songer & Stuart Ahlum, co-founders of SuperCircle and Thousand Fell, are our guests on Sustainability in Your Ear.

Textiles recycling has long been a challenge for North Americans — and under the best of circumstances, vast amounts of clothing and other textiles are stored in warehouses to wait for downcycling to make fiber for insulation or filler. But with the rise of the $123 billion fast fashion industry, which is growing 15.6% a year as of 2023, many millions of tons of clothing are being shipped overseas, where most end up in landfills. You have probably seen recent satellite images of a literal mountain of 60,000 tons of apparel piling up in Chile’s Atacama desert. It’s an appalling example of the take-make-waste approach to clothing ourselves.

Using SuperCircle’s process, synthetic textiles are recycled into new fiber. On the other hand, organic fibers, like cotton, can be shredded for use as insulation and filler in, for example, furniture and sporting equipment. Technology plays a vital role in SuperCircle’s business, connecting return shipments, consolidation, sorting, and grading of materials with the recycling process to provide an end-to-end view of the reverse logistics systems for fashion brands.

You can learn more about SuperCircle at supercircle.world.

Originally aired Jul 31, 2023