Circ raises $30 million to develop textile recycling

Huge piles of clothes lay in landfills around the world. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 17 million tonnes of textiles were created in 2018 – and less than 15% were recycled.

It doesn’t have to be that way, according to Danville, Va. circ, which is on a mission to recycle fashion waste into textiles again and again. Specifically, the company recycles cotton, polyester, and cotton-poly blends.

Today, the company announced a $30 million Series B funding round, led by Breakthrough Energy Ventures, founded by Bill Gates, along with additional investment from Inditex, one of the largest retailers in world and the parent company of Zara, the American textile manufacturer Milliken, and international investments. Lansdowne Partners group.

“At Inditex, we are very pleased to announce that Circ is our first investment in a clean technology company,” Inditex CEO Óscar García Maceiras said in a statement. “In partnership with Circ, we are committed to driving the transformation of the entire fashion industry. We look forward to contributing our knowledge and entrepreneurial capabilities to Circ’s rapid success and achievement in the future. ‘industrial scale’.

The round is also backed by previous investors including 8090 Partners, Alante Capital, Card Sound Capital, Circulate Capital, Envisioning Partners and Marubeni.

The latest capital injection will help Circ secure several business and brand partnerships already underway, according to Circ CEO Peter Majeranowski. It will also help the company grow its workforce – Circ currently employs around 30 people and expects that number to grow to nearly 50.

Circ also “strengthens” its engineering muscles because it wants to build bigger and better facilities. “If you look at some of the other chemical recyclers in space, we’re following their lead in that we’re doing all the detailed engineering work for larger-scale equipment,” Majeranowski said.

With that in mind, Majeranowski said that while $30 million is a lot of money, the work his company does is capital intensive. “I think when you look at what it’s going to take for the industry [to reach textile recycling at scale]it will take billions and billions of dollars to do it, but we have to do it,” he added.

When you look at what it will take for the industry to achieve large-scale textile recycling, it will take billions and billions of dollars to do so.

The funding announcement follows Circ’s COVID-19-induced setbacks, but also comes after partnerships with companies and brands, some of which Majeranowski says are not yet for public consumption. But a public partnership is one that started in 2021 with Andritza technology group based in Graz, Austria, which provides plants, systems, equipment and services for various industries.

“We were looking for partners with test facilities where we could try out machines that would work on a larger scale than what we were doing before,” Majeranowski said, noting that Andritz felt well-placed for such a collaboration. “Ultimately what we do is recycle fibers, and they’ve been working with fibers for decades.”

Circ is not the only company or organization thinking about scaling textile recycling. A few examples that come to mind:

“I think everyone recognizes that circularity is coming, and it’s here to stay. It’s really needed for the apparel industry,” Majeranowski said. “So really, circularity is the magic bullet, that solution that the industry needs to be much more sustainable while also being able to democratize fashion for its customers.”

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