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Closed Loop or Wear Nothing (Video and Slides)

Cyndi Rhoades, CEO of Worn Again and multi-award-winning social entrepreneur, talks to the National Retail Consumer Conference 2012 about how systems thinking, collaboration and disruptive approaches are integral to businesses such as Worn Again. She presented the Conference with a history of the business, moving from its initial work in "upcycling" through to its ultimate goal of creating "closed loop", zero-waste textile products.

Cyndi's presentation proved very challenging, and provoked a long discussion afterwards. The Conference floor were particularly interested in whether closed loop manufacturing offered a genuine solution to textile waste - one delegate asked if it wasn't the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. However, Cyndi detailed a process whereby polyester material is reduced back to its chemical components and recombined into new polyester material that is not only 70% more efficient than drilling for oil to make new polyester but can be carried out again and again with little degredation. Cyndi was clear that the process is not a silver bullet to the problem of textile waste - particularly as it can only be used for synthetic fibres - but it is a better way of dealing with the one million tonnes of textile and clothing waste in the UK than landfill sites and an important step on the journey to a greener future.

Cyndi left the Conference with an interesting challenge - the first company in the UK to commit to using "closed loop" uniforms was not a member of the co-operative sector but McDonalds, who intend to launch their Wayne Hemmingway-designed uniforms at the 2012 Olympics. Hopefully, the second will be one of our consumer co-operative members.

For more information on Worn Again and the upcycling process, visit their website www.wornagain.co.uk, or watch other presentations from the Co-operatives UK National Retail Consumer Conference here.