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CLOSING THE LOOP

“The response of the first Global Change Award is overwhelming,” Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M and a board member of the H&M Conscious Foundation, said in a statement. “The winning innovations are important contributions in the journey towards a circular fashion industry. Now, we invite the public to use their voice and influence how much funding each idea should get.”

Voting is open from now through February 7. Besides the cash, award recipients will also gain admittance to an exclusive innovation accelerator-cum-boot-camp, where they’ll receive help from strategy consultancy Accenture and Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology to bring their concepts to market.

Ellis Rubinstein, president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences and member of the jury said the five winners could conceivably change the fashion industry as we know it.

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“The Global Change Award rewards truly out-of-the-box thinking in utilizing advanced technological approaches to make the fashion industry more sustainable—for example, creating less environmental waste and using less energy—while making fashion products that are even more appealing,” he said. “In this sense, the five winning innovations all have the potential to be truly game-changing.”

Other members of the selection panel include Michael Braungart, academic chair of Cradle to Cradle for Innovation and Quality at Erasmus University Rotterdam; Rebecca Earley, professor in sustainable textile and fashion design at University for the Arts London; Eva Kruse, CEO of the Danish Fashion Institute and CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week; Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue; and supermodel and entrepreneur Amber Valletta.

CHECK OUT THE WINNING CONCEPTS >

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POLYESTER DIGESTER

One idea tackles the problem of polyester, one of the most popular textiles in use today. It’s also tricky to recycle, since the synthetic is frequently blended with other fibers.

But what if we could engineer a new type of microbe that not only “eats” waste polyester but also breaks it down into useful ingredients? Ideally, the byproducts could be repurposed to create “new” polyester without a loss in quality.

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ONLINE MARKETPLACE

Another suggestion: a global online marketplace for textile leftovers and industry surplus that uses software to gather data from manufacturers in real time.

The tool will connect manufacturers directly with designers, shunting waste textiles into the design process, as well as production, instead of the landfill.

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GROWING TEXTILES

Algae could provide a cheap and plentiful feedstock for a new kind of raw material. Since the sea organism only requires sun and air, it also provides a renewable resource. We would also see a reduction in transportation fuel and costs, as well, since algae can be harvested from coastal regions worldwide.

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DISSOLVING COTTON

One applicant proposes using an environmentally friendly solvent to dissolve cotton in textile waste, creating “new” cotton-like fibers that can be spun into new fabrics. The upsides? Reduced landfill waste and the use of fewer natural resources.

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ORANGE APPEAL

We’ve written about the untapped potential of citrus waste—a growing problem in southern Italy—before. Cellulose can be extracted from the byproducts from citrus juicing to create new yarns, which can then be used to create different types of high-quality textiles.

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