From responsibility targets to actions – Lindström is developing the closed-loop for textiles

By 2025, Lindström Group will recycle 100 percent of its textile waste. Currently the company is conducting a pilot project developing a closed-loop recycling system for textiles. 

– In 2019, when we set a target to recycle 100 percent of our textile waste, we did not actually know how it could be done. We did not have the means, but when you delve into something and commit to it, you start finding solutions. Now our objective for 2025 is fully attainable, Juha Laurio, CEO at Lindström, says happily. 

Textile service company Lindström rents workwear, mats, hotel, and restaurant textiles among other things.workwear, hotel and restaurant textiles, and mats, among other things. The company is a forerunner in circular economy both in Finland and on a global scale: it began renting textiles already in the 1930s. Therefore, the core element of the whole business is revolved around the principles of circular economy and sharing economy.

Some of its competitors regard Lindström’s efforts into circular economy as a competitive advantage. 

This is how I see it: if you don’t keep your eye on the ball with responsibility matters, your business collapses. It’s not about having a competitive factor, but, rather, it’s a condition for the entire business, says Laurio. 

Planning based on recyclability 

Lindström has been involved with downcycling for a long time. To be more specific, the company recycles a product that has come to an end of its lifespan, transforming it into another product. For example, a sheet is made into an absorbent mat. 

The next objective for the company is upcycling. It is a process where a used product can be recycled to be used as a material that is equally valuable or obtaining an even greater value than before. 

We seek to develop together with our partners increasingly more materials, which have, from the start, been designed to be recycled. When testing new recycled materials, for example, for workwear, it is important to make sure you come up with a textile that is durable and has a long lifespan. There is no point in recycling something that is not long-lasting in use. 

In the last couple of years, together with its local recycling partners Lindström has managed to find solutions even for the products that are the most difficult to recycle. These include technical workwear and mats. 

Promising pilots pave the way for closedloop systems 

Pilot projects aimed at closedloop processes are already well underway. Rester, a Finnish company recycling Lindström’s discarded textiles and fabric supplier Klopman are working closely to increase the percentage of recycled fibre in new workwear fabric. The fibre is obtained from Lindström’s textile waste. The first workwear fabric resulting from this co-operation has already been put through wash tests to assess durability and quality. 

Co-operation with another fabric supplier is further along in the process: the first hotel and restaurant workwear collection made using recycled fibre from discarded textiles has already been launched. The design and pattern making also took into account minimising cutting waste, for example, by utilising it for the apron pockets. 

 I am confident that, together with our partners, we will be able to create textile materials that have fibres that do not shorten when recycled. A lot of work still lies ahead but a realistic timeframe for seeing results in creating a closed loop system is somewhere at the end of this decade, Laurio says. 


Best recycling technologies are scalable 

Laurio is pleased with the number of new startup companies in Finland revolved around recycling and manufacturing of materials. 

 It’s clear that all technologies currently being developed are not going to prove successful. therefore it is important to actively participate in the development and be there to offer help. We are a great sparring partner for start-ups because we set the bar high. The best solutions are efficient as well as scalable. Those are the ones we are interested in finding. 

One of the important partnerships the company has, is with Rester Oy, the company that recycles discarded textiles. Lindström Group became its second-largest owner in 2022. 

 Rester was a strategic investment for us. It helps us accelerate the development of textile recycling, Laurio says. 

Entire supply chain to be included in the emission reduction targets 

Lindström has committed to the Science Based Targets initiative, which helps companies in settingset ambitious and plausible greenhouse emission reduction targets covering the entire value chain. 

Often, most of the emissions of the company are generated outside its own operations, for example, by the subcontractors – at Lindström, this figure is around 70 percent. For that reason, it is important to get the entire partner network involved and committed to the reduction of emissions. 

We have various operators in our supply chain, both before and after us. Not many companies are able to alone sort out the responsibility of their practices or implement a business model that adheres to circular economy principles. This is why we collaborate closely both with fabric manufacturers and recycling companies, and also help them in making their operations more responsible, Laurio says. 

Lindström operates in 23 countries and implements the same approach in each one. This means that the aim is to have the manufacturing and recycling of textiles take place as near as possible to the clients. 

We search for the necessary partners within our operating area instead of shipping textiles across the world. Our operation model also improves security of supply, which is a decision that proved its worth given the global situation over the last few years.

Ambitious partners are truly needed in this work, and a change in attitude can be noted. 

– A few years ago, the suppliers in China showed no interest in responsibility. Now, they are the first ones to ask about it. The pace of change is rapid. 

Responsibility practices create a virtuous cycle 

Lindström’s rigorous responsibility operations and reports on the progress began decades ago. It was not typical for companies back then. Laurio says it has partially contributed to attracting personnel that consider responsibility matters important. 

–  This has created positive feelings. We don’t have to motivate our personnel in responsibility. It’s quite the opposite. There is pressure from the personnel for the management to step up and get things moving forward.

Laurio sees the business interest in responsibility. When textiles are long-lasting, and the maintenance requires as little water and energy as possible, it also means reduced costs for the client.

There is a financial, environmental, and social aspect to responsibility, and when you improve one of these, it adds to the other two. It’s difficult to see adverse economic effects in investing in more responsible practices. You can see those only if you are looking too near into the future. We as a company with a 175-year-old history, are used to looking farther away into the future.

Price competitiveness with responsibility 

Legislation, the market, and clients are all putting pressure on companies to invest into responsibility. It also affects investor interest as well as customer behaviour. 

– The company must have a determined mindset and clear objectives to go after. Responsibility in company operations is not something that happens on its own or by accident. 

Laurio encourages companies to look into the Science Based Targets initiative. It acts as a great starting point because the company is compelled to examine its entire operation. The results will form a basis for planning operational measures. 

– In our operations, responsibility contributes directly by improving price competitiveness, says Laurio. 


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