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2023 Finalist
Build a
Waste-free World

Circ

Country:
USA
Nominated by:

US based company Circ has created a ground-breaking solution to enable the recycling of polycotton fabrics, which make up half of all textile waste.

The fashion industry diverts 92 million tonnes of textiles to incinerators or landfills each year, and less than one percent of textile waste is recycled into new clothing. The textile production process is extremely resource-intensive – for example, cotton production uses 3.3 million acres of land and six billion cubic metres of water annually, and polyester production uses 70 million barrels of oil each year.

While over-consumption and “fast fashion” remain major challenges to creating a more sustainable industry, there are also significant technical barriers that prevent the recycling of textiles and our ability to reuse them to create new clothing. One example: Textile recycling solutions have not yet been able to effectively process polycotton, a synthetic blend of cotton fibres and plastic polymers that accounts for nearly half of all textile waste. Polycotton takes around 200 years to biodegrade, and it releases chemicals like carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other toxic compounds when burned in incinerators.

Circ's Solution

U.S. based company Circ, co-founded by Peter Majeranowski, has developed a revolutionary method for recycling polycotton. Circ takes polycotton and completely separates the polyester from the cotton fibres through its patented hydrothermal process, which turns polyester fibres into a liquid polymer. Preserving and separating the polyester without damaging the cotton, allows both cotton and polyester fibres to be reused in the production of new textiles, while also reducing carbon emissions by substantially.

Their Impact

Every polycotton garment Circ recycles is one less piece of clothing diverted to landfill or burned in incinerators that poison the air. Circ has made huge progress, diverting 103 tonnes of textile waste from landfill back into circulation and preventing 130,000 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

Within the next three years, the company plans to open a factory with the capacity to recycle 60,000 tonnes of textile waste annually. By 2030, Circ will have quintupled its capacity to 300,000 tonnes, helping to set the fashion industry on the path towards circularity.

Other Finalists in Build a Waste-free World

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and Restore
Nature

By 2030, we choose to ensure that, for the first time in human history, the natural world is growing – not shrinking – on our planet. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Protecting areas of high biodiversity such as forests, wetland, peatlands and wildlife corridors
  2. Restoring damaged ecosystems
  3. Feeding people while protecting nature
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Clean Our
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By 2030 we choose to ensure that everyone in the world breathes clean, healthy air – at World Health Organization standard or better. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Engaging citizens in data collection and clean air policies
  2. Preventing the burning of fields, forests and waste
  3. Transitioning to clean transportation for all
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Revive Our
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By 2030, we choose to repair and preserve our oceans for future generations. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems
  2. Replenishing fish populations
  3. Reducing demand for fishmeal
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Build a
Waste-free
World

By 2030, we choose to build a world where nothing goes to waste, where the leftovers of one process become the raw materials of the next – just like they do in nature. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Reducing food loss from farm to fork
  2. Phasing out single-use and non-recycled plastics
  3. High-value circularity in fashion and electronics
Learn more about this Earthshot

Fix Our
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We choose to fix the world’s climate by cutting out carbon: building a carbon neutral economy that lets every culture, community and country thrive. 

This Earthshot focuses on three main areas of interest: 

  1. Creating an equitable clean energy future
  2. Addressing non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions
  3. Decarbonising hard to abate sectors
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The Earthshot Prize