A new ‘data sandbox’ for the UK fashion and textiles sector will pave the way for circular economy principles to be embedded across supply chains.

The project, led by consultancy QSA Partners (QSA) in collaboration with partners including the University of Exeter, will lay the ground for a new extended producer responsibility (EPR) system that will give all supply chain players incentives to ensure clothes and other textile products can be reused, refurbished and resold.

Funded by Innovate UK’s ‘Circular Economy for SMEs’ initiative as part of the National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research programme (NICER), the project sees the UK fashion and textiles industry unite to tackle the potential costly impacts of future producer responsibility. 

Other partners include the British Fashion Council (BFC) and the UK Fashion and Textile Association https://www.ukft.org/(UKFT), with support from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The aim is to create a market-based EPR system that is dynamic, flexible and adapts to the emergence of new technologies, retail systems and consumer behaviour while enabling a step-change in the adoption of circular approaches.

A range of producers will be involved to assess garment level data such as fibre composition, fibre type, which will improve understanding of the potential levers for different EPR mechanisms and how these impact different parts of the supply chain. 

Gerrard Fisher, a Partner at QSA, set out the ambition for the project saying: “This project is looking at a radical and innovative approach to market data collation.

“Any future EPR system needs to drive incentivisation to switch to circular options and disincentivise linear systems.”

Professor Peter Hopkinson, Director of the University of Exeter’s CE-Hub, the coordinating Hub for the NICER Programme, said: “We are excited to develop systems based on the modern data capabilities brands and retailers have, and to be able to harness this complex and disperse industry data in ways that will provide accurate and relevant information on market share as well as ‘product circularity scores’”.

Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion and Textile Association, added that “a future EPR system must accommodate all supply chain players that we have in abundance in the UK. To have a system that can bring all these players together and make positive and proactive improvements to the UK economy is paramount”.

Caroline Rush CBE, Chief Executive of British Fashion Council said: “The British fashion industry represents significant creative depth and reach in the UK and globally. We have an opportunity to develop an EPR system for fashion and textiles which focuses on maintaining value and longevity of garments to achieve a circular fashion ecosystem through reuse, refurbishment, and resale of products. An industry-led initiative like this has a chance to become an exemplar for others to follow.”

Brands, retailers, platforms or any other producer of garments that would like to participate in the project can contact QSA at hello@qsapartners.co.uk