Debbie Hitchen

Richard Peagam

Claudia Amos

Anthesis Shortlisted to Develop the UK’s First Comprehensive Smart Waste Tracking Solution

October 31, 2019 | News,
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Anthesis waste and recycling team

Anthesis is one of two companies awarded up to £500,000 each to build and test the UK’s first comprehensive digital waste tracking solution.

Anthesis now has a year to produce a private beta tested version of its system. The project is part of the second phase of Defra’s GovTech Catalyst waste tracking competition, which sees an initial five companies from phase one whittled down to Anthesis and one other.

Anthesis’ system for tracking waste, called Vastum, would digitise the current paper-based system of waste transfer notes, consignment notes and other documentation required by legislation. Each waste transfer or movement would be captured and treated as a transaction between three parties – the waste producer, waste carrier and the waste management site receiving it.

Each waste movement would be allocated a unique digital transaction ID. Users would be able to scan QR codes on mobile devices to record the ID, making transactions faster and far less open to errors. Every transaction would be linked in the system using a combination of operator data and algorithms based on historic, site specific information. Artificial intelligence will allow the system to learn and improve over time.

“We are thrilled to further develop and test Vastum. We believe it will deliver economic and environmental benefits that are truly transformational.”

The ambition is that Vastum will track waste in close to real time. This would allow the system to more promptly alert regulators to illegal activities, enabling them to take action and protect the environment. For the first time, government, industry and other stakeholders would also have comprehensive data on which to base and monitor policy and make the investment decisions necessary to deliver the infrastructure required for a circular economy.

Simone Aplin, technical director at Anthesis, said: “We are thrilled to further develop and test Vastum. We believe it will deliver economic and environmental benefits that are truly transformational. A successful system will significantly reduce the administrative burden for the sector and generate the data needed to tackle waste crime, inform policy and guide vital investment in the circular economy.”

The approach behind the system was inspired by feedback from stakeholders across the waste sector combined with practical knowledge of regulatory reporting and how waste is collected, treated and transported, plus the needs of the wide range of users who will benefit from an electronic tracking system.

Anthesis and the other shortlisted company, Topolytics, will use extensive research and testing across a wide range of businesses and organisations during every stage of development, to ensure that the digital waste tracking solutions are fit for purpose.

About the GovTech Catalyst Challenge

The waste tracking competition is part of the GovTech Catalyst programme, launched to encourage technology companies to deliver innovative solutions to public sector challenges, like the improvement of waste tracking and action against waste crime.

During phase one of the competition, which ran from October 2018 to March 2019, five companies including Anthesis were selected to prove the feasibility of using emerging technology to record and track individual movements of waste through the economy.

The waste tracking project forms part of the landmark Environment Bill, which describes the government’s ambition to move towards a circular waste economy. Measures also include extended producer responsibility, new charges for certain single-use plastic items, and clear product labelling to help consumers make purchasing decisions that support the market for more sustainable products.

Related interest

  • Information about phase one of the challenge
  • Information about how people can sign up for regular updates about the challenge.

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Anthesis has offices in the U.S., Canada, Colombia, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Andorra, Finland, China, the Philippines and the Middle East.

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Alexandre Lemille

Sustainable Fibre and Circularity Support Under The European Clothing Action Plan

October 27, 2019 | Case Study,
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Between 2015 and 2019, sport apparel brand Peak Performance reduced its collection’s average water footprint by 34 percent and their average CO2 footprint by 13 percent, as a result of the fibre strategy developed during European Clothing Action Plan.

The Project

Peak Performance is a leading sports apparel brand with an ambitious sustainability agenda. The company took part in the European Clothing Action Plan, which aimed to adopt circular approaches to clothing in collaboration with 13 brands across Europe.

Peak Performance worked with Anthesis on the area of sustainable fibres, to increase the uptake of environmentally sound materials and reduce negative impacts.

Anthesis role was to support ECAP participants such as Peak Performance in developing evidence based strategies to support the uptake of more sustainable fibres and, consequently, reduce the environmental impact of clothing being sold within the EU market.

Key Services Delivered

Our experts followed a structured approach to provide support with the main interventions being:

  • Establishing a baseline fibre mix and footprint
  • Delivering an interactive strategy workshop
  • Outlining current fibre mix and associated environmental impacts
  • Raising awareness of sustainable fibre alternatives, innovations and trends
  • Initiating the development of a sustainable fibre strategy
  • Ongoing, bespoke support to enable implementation of the sustainable fibres strategy
  • Tracking progress through conducting midterm and endline footprint reports, assessing uptake and improvement potential of more sustainable fibres.

“Being part of the ECAP project has increased our understanding of our fibre footprint, and helped us set clear goals and start tracking against them. We have a much clearer picture about what we need to do to convert unsustainable materials into better options.”

Åsa Andersson, Sustainability and Quality Manager, Peak Performance.

Key Project Outputs

In addition to the fibre strategy workshop and footprint reports, circular economy experts from Anthesis also produced a report on bio-based materials in the apparel sector for Peak Performance. Some of the findings from this research provided inspiration for an Op-Ed in the renowned industry journal Apparel Insider.

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Executive Director Jim Fava Receives Prestigious Lifetime Leadership Award for LCA Innovation

October 11, 2019 | News,
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Jim Fava Award

Anthesis is proud to share the news that Executive Director Jim Fava has received the Rita Schenck Lifetime Individual LCA Leadership Award from the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA).

The ACLCA’s Lifetime Leadership Award is one of three categories presented at its annual ceremony and is bestowed to leaders whose long-term active engagement has had a significant impact on the field and profession of LCA and life cycle thinking. The award recognizes contributions over the entirety of a career, rather than, or in addition to, a single contribution. Previous recipients have included individuals from companies such as DOW, EarthShift Global, Industrial Ecology Consultants, IERE and the GE Ecoassessment Center of Excellence.

“I am honored to be awarded the ACLCA’s Lifetime Leadership Award. It is exciting to see the increasing interest by both practitioners and users of life cycle information.”

Jim Fava, often described as ‘the father of modern-day life cycle assessments’, received ACLCA’s Lifetime Leadership Award to honor his role in promoting and developing the practice and application of life cycle information to support decision-making globally. Over the last three decades Jim has led or played key roles in LCA innovation for The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Jim is also executive committee chair for the Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Innovation (FSLCI).

Currently, as Executive Director at global sustainability consultancy Anthesis Group, Jim continues to drive business value for his clients through increased revenue, risk mitigation, reduced costs, and brand enhancement from operating sustainably with an unrivalled purpose and passion. He provides strategic guidance, tools, and expertise, enabling businesses to operate in a more environmentally responsible and sustainable way. As part of his wider career, he has spent over 40 years supporting businesses and governments to understand the sustainability risks and opportunities facing them and was co-founder of Five Winds International (now thinkstep) and the Product Sustainability Roundtable (PSRT).

Jim Fava

On receiving his award, Jim said “I am honored to be awarded the ACLCA’s Lifetime Leadership Award. It is exciting to see the increasing interest by both practitioners and users of life cycle information. There is great enthusiasm across the industry to accelerate the understanding, acceptance, use, and value of life cycle information and ultimately realize the value it can provide.”

President of Anthesis LLC Chris Jones’ commented “The ACLCA lifetime achievement award is a fitting tribute for Jim’s pivotal contribution to life cycle thinking. We are all incredibly proud of the positive impact Jim has made throughout his illustrious career.”

 

About the ACLCA Awards

The American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA) Annual LCA Awards honors individuals and organizations that have demonstrated excellence in advancing LCA and life cycle thinking. The annual awards program is an opportunity to recognize those leaders at all levels, in all areas that have shown powerful support and a clear vision for the implementation and application of LCA.

 

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Honor Cowen

Biomaterials: Fashion’s Future or Passing Fad?

August 15, 2019 | Insights,
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Demand for fast fashion is rocketing at just the same time that consumers want the apparel industry to reduce its environmental impact. It’s a dilemma, but are biobased materials the answer? By Claudia Amos and Georgie Edwards. 

Synthetic leather made from mushroom roots, nylon processed from castor oil and fabrics spun from spider silk. A slew of novel materials has hit the market in recent years, aiming to give brands more environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional fibres.

These innovative new textiles have been welcomed by high profile designers and retailers who are blazing a trail for the wider industry and bringing them to the attention of consumers.

Among the leaders has been H&M, which every year since 2010 has unveiled its Conscious Collection, a range of clothes and footwear created from unconventional materials that aim to drive down fashion’s environmental impacts. This year, the collection featured fabric developed by Italian company Orange Fiber that is made from, as you might expect, citrus fruit waste.

Stella McCartney’s best-selling Falabella bags, meanwhile, are made from alter-nappa, a faux leather whose coating is processed using over 50 per cent vegetable oil. The North Face has released a prototype ski jacket made from a synthetic version of spider silk, one of the strongest and most flexible of all natural fibres. Although still in development, the potentially revolutionary fibre is produced by genetically altered bacteria.

The rise of biobased alternatives

What all these fabrics have in common is that they are part of a growing family of products known as biobased materials.

The range is evolving all the time. It includes among others Piñatex, a faux leather fashioned from pineapple leaf fibres. Mycelium is another alternative to leather, produced from the roots of mushrooms. Among the best developed biobased materials are bio-polyesters and bio-nylons, with variations processed from corn starch, castor oil and a range of other plant-based raw materials.

For some of the new biobased materials, one of the environmental advantages is that the journey from crop to fibre can be more efficient than traditional production processes – meaning less water, less energy and lower carbon emissions. For example, according to the London Textile Forum biobased polymer fibres like nylons are generally considered to contribute much less in carbon emissions compared to conventional polymers. During the crop phase they act as a carbon sink, reducing life cycle carbon emissions by as much as 60 percent. Like all plants, as crops grow they absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

Some brands are also taking steps to ensure that their feedstocks are more fully sustainable. Gap, ASOS, Arcadia and H&M are among those signed up to Fashion Loved by Forest, a programme run by not-for-profit environmental group Canopy that commits companies to sourcing fabrics that do not contribute to deforestation. For fans of the new alternatives to traditional leathers, meanwhile, the main appeal is clear: often described as ‘vegan leather’, they feature no animal products.

Are alternatives always the answer?

It’s easy to understand this mounting desire from both brands and consumers to see fashion reduce its environmental impacts. Every year the industry produces an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste and is responsible for 20 percent of the wastewater produced worldwide and ten percent of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and shipping combined. Biobased materials offer a way to start addressing these huge challenges.

But it’s worth noting that some of fashion’s best loved fabrics, like cotton, silk and wool, have always been ‘biobased’. The fact that the industry is looking for alternatives is a sign that the sustainability impact from biobased materials may not be quite as straightforward as it appears. The reason is that sustainability is about looking in detail at every stage of a product’s life cycle, from raw materials to manufacturing, transport, use and disposal.

When it comes to raw materials, although biobased fabrics can be made from sustainably sourced feedstocks or the waste from other industries – like orange peel or pineapple leaves – they can also be made from specially planted crops. These might be seeded on land that could otherwise be used to produce food for the world’s growing population. Where the crops are grown and how they are transported can also have a significant impact on how sustainable they are. Plus, agriculture doesn’t always have the best record on sustainability, relying on high inputs of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and potentially sucking in large amounts of water and releasing pollution to both the soil and watercourses.

Manufacturing the raw materials into finished biobased materials can also be less benign than consumers might think. Complex chemical processing is sometimes required. Even when the biobased fibre is ready, it’s often blended with other fibres to produce the finished fabric. These may themselves be the product of complex manufacturing that falls short on sustainability.

With the raw materials sourced and the finished biobased materials manufactured, they are ready to be turned into new dresses, handbags, shoes and other apparel and sold to consumers. But for sustainability, a key concern is what happens to these products when they reach the other end of their life cycle – in everyday terms, when people are ready to throw them away.

Consumers could be forgiven for thinking that because biobased materials start with things like vegetable oil or mushrooms, they should be easier to dispose of than traditional fabrics. Just chuck them in the compost bin, right? Sadly, it’s not so easy. PLA, for example, is a type of biobased polyester made from corn starch that only biodegrades when exposed to high humidity and temperatures over 60 degrees. Many other biobased fabrics are mixed with non-compostable elements like plastics during manufacturing. The upshot is that many biobased materials are currently difficult to compost using existing waste management services.

Maybe they are at least easy to recycle? Unfortunately, the chemicals and constituents that are often added to biobased materials mean recycling them is rarely straightforward. So far, experts have little experience of working with these materials and products to determine their impact on the environment.

Even materials that may be theoretically recyclable may not be recycled in practice. In many cases, biobased materials have not reached ‘critical mass’ to trigger a change in how we collect and manage them as waste products.

Exactly what defines a biobased material is contentious. According to the European Committee for Standardisation they must be wholly or partly derived from biomass, such as plants, trees or animals, and they can have been physically, chemically or biologically treated. The main point of debate centres around the proportion of biomass content in the materials, since even materials that are only partially derived from biomass can still be labelled as being biobased.  

It’s not as simple as it seems

Biobased materials turn out to be complicated. The industry needs to communicate very clearly to people where the material comes from, how much biobased matter is included, and that recycling them can be challenging.

In fact, it may turn out that other options are more sustainable than biobased materials. One alternative is fabrics that contain fibres made from recycled plastics, like PET bottles or packaging. These have the advantage that the recycling systems and expertise they need is better developed. That’s why brands like The North Face, Vaude, Stella McCartney and H&M are pursuing both biobased and recycled materials, hoping to source sufficient materials to make an impact and learning alongside consumers which path might turn out best for fashion.

So while there are definitely some plus points to biobased materials the story is not as simple as it might seem.

And that’s really the point. The environmental challenges facing an industry as big and fast moving as fashion are bound to be significant. The answers are multiple and complicated. But new ideas, coupled with detailed analysis and understanding, can move us forward towards a more sustainable future.

Even if biobased materials are not on their own the answer to making fashion sustainable, they signal a growing willingness from some of fashion’s biggest brands to make major investments in tacking the challenges of sustainability.

Claudia Amos is a technical director specialising in waste at sustainability consultancy Anthesis. Georgie Edwards is a consultant with Anthesis specialising in fashion. 

This article first appeared in Apparel Insider, July 2019.

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Anthesis has offices in the U.S., Canada, Colombia, the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Spain, Andorra, Finland, China, the Philippines and the Middle East.

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