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Seeking Textiles Circularity in Sports Events

June 13 2023 - News Release News Editorial

In a unique collaboration, The Ocean Race, Helly Hansen and supply chain stakeholders have proven textiles circularity in sports is possible, by recycling event flags into new flags for the first time.

Seeking Textiles Circularity in Sports Events

Circularity* in textiles is usually focused on the fashion industry, but sports and events are keen to be test-labs to accelerate solutions that could be rolled out to other sectors, by tackling what could be the greatest amount of single-use plastic for the industry – the banners and flags at events. In collaboration with Helly Hansen, Official Clothing Supplier for The Ocean Race 2022-23, the stopovers in The Hague and Genova are flying a flag made from flags that originally flew in the cities during The Ocean Race Europe in 2021.

Circularity Challenge

Given the significant volume, short lifespan and limited reuse possibilities, we must accelerate circularity in textiles used in sports and events. This project has been set up to show that it is possible to recycle banners and flags, and signal to the sports and events industry that this is a serious issue that must and can be addressed.

Currently, most materials end up in landfill or incineration, or if a major effort is made by event organisers to ensure resource recovery, banners and flags might be downcycled into padding and filling materials.

Seeing this as an unsolved sustainability challenge for sports and events, since 2020 The Ocean Race has been leading an international working group on ‘Sustainable Look and Overlay’ – which is focussing on how to reduce the volumes, source sustainability and accelerateing innovation and circularity.

There are very few places in Europe to send textiles for recycling, even down-cycling. There are no facilities available in Spain or Italy, the start and the finish locations for The Ocean Race.

But thankfully, due to a pilot project with Helly Hansen, The Ocean Race is one step closer to proving circularity for textiles from sports events in Europe is possible.

In 2021 Helly Hansen and The Ocean Race participated in an advanced recycling project for textiles, with 30kg of flags and banners recovered from The Ocean Race Europe, which finished in Genova, Italy.

Helly Hansen led the initiative with a view to proving that textiles from events could be used as genuine materials inputs in future sports clothing manufacture.

“Textile to textile recycling is the only way our industry can be fully circular. While we are not yet there, it is important for us as a brand to explore the current opportunities and support recyclers in scaling up their innovative technologies.” Åsa Andersson, Sustainability Director, Helly Hansen.

The materials from The Ocean Race were taken to gr3n, for innovative recycling treatment at their test facility in Italy. Using a technology that returns the plastic to a high quality raw ingredient, the result was three ‘bobbins’ of recycled polyester yarn. Read more about the technology at the end of this article.

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