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08.02.2024 InCamS@Bi

Recycle sustainably produced textiles

An interdisciplinary team from Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences visited local textile manufacturer fast52 on 21 January 2024 and found numerous points of contact for collaboration. With the support of the InCamS@BI project, the company would like to make further progress towards sustainability.

A group of women discuss in a textile show room.
From a business psychology perspective, Eliza Starke is interested in the
the connection between brand communication and sustainability. | Source: P. Pollmeier/HSBI

The company fast52 Bielefeld-Sennestadt works sustainably: it produces clothing on demand, saves resources and produces fairly. Nevertheless, fast52 wants to become even more sustainable - with the support of the InCamS@BI project. The walls are decorated with printed designs of jerseys, jackets and trousers, outdoor jackets, coats and long-sleeved shirts in bright colours hang on a clothes rail, employees sit at a screen and work on 3D visualisations, among other things. In the middle of it all: technology scouts and researchers from the InCamS@BI project. The Innovation Campus for Sustainable Solutions, as InCamS@BI is known, is a transfer project between Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences and Bielefeld University.

Competition in the textile industry is fierce and consumers are extremely price-sensitive, especially in developed markets. As a result, many products are still produced in countries with low labour costs and have to be transported over long distances to their target markets. Sophisticated marketing, distribution and logistics systems are designed to help keep the business predictable. However, all of this is often not very sustainable, as it favours the use of materials that pollute the environment and often leads to a waste of raw materials and energy. Managing Partner Ralf Kelber is aware of these problems and has decided to take a different approach with his start-up, which was founded in 2016: "We currently focus on producing sports, leisure and corporate clothing, but we only produce what is actually ordered and sold. Retailers plan orders and inventories with a maximum lead time of two or three weeks, rather than the six to nine months required by large textile manufacturers that produce overseas." This is called on-demand. And to ensure that customers receive their goods promptly, fast52 only produces regionally. Kelber: "We had a simple, scalable system in mind that would achieve economically competitive products through good quality and minimised waste."

Mr Kelber therefore invited the InCamS@BI team to take an external look at potential challenges and possible "levers" that could make fast52 even more sustainable. This is a good fit, as the university project focuses in particular on small and medium-sized companies in Ostwestfalen-Lippe (OWL) that manufacture, process or use plastics. The InCamS@BI project, which is funded as part of the federal-state initiative "Innovative University", has the personnel, time and appropriate equipment to record and analyse the problems of market participants and develop ideas for solutions. For the first visit, a wide range of HSBI experts are therefore coming to fast52, including researchers from the fields of plastics technology, materials testing, circular value creation, business psychology, business law and innovation management.

You can find out in detail how EU law influences planning, exactly how production works, what approaches to waste material utilisation the project partners are discussing with each other and whether a deposit system for textiles could help, you can read about this in detail in the German HSBI press release.

 German press release