GRS / RCS Certificates Could Support Transition to Circular Fashion Through Digitisation and Extending the Trace of Waste 

The RCS and GRS certificates have played an important role for the fashion industry to distinguish recycled materials from virgin ones and communicate this easily to consumers. However the scope of the GRS/RCS has so far, due to the current status quo, been more aligned with the linear supply chains, and thus not providing enough support for the industry to unlock the circular supply chains as efficiently as it could.  
In May 2021 Textile Exchange started the review process for the GRS / RCS certificate. Reverse Resources presented it’s feedback and suggestions with a list of case studies and examples from our work experience. In short, we made three key suggestions:
  • Extend the chain of custody that is being certified so that it would start from the original source of the reclaimed materials, starting such transition from post-industrial waste initially. Currently, the certification starts from the recycling stage onwards.
Graph: Digital verification suggested as extension to current certification process.

  • Carry forward more detailed background information (e.g. material composition, colour) of the reclaimed material from the source so that the supplier of the waste could have a requirement to provide such background information for the recyclers. Currently, the information in the certification documents is limited to broad description e.g post-consumer or pre-consumer waste.
  • Accept input from digital platforms and data sources to verify and authenticate information as part of the certification process. Currently, the GRS / RCS certification is heavily relying on manual data collection, data entry and manual verification of paper documentation. It makes it costly and prone to mistakes and malpractice, whereas different digital tools used in the operations of waste management and recycling might provide more accurate and timely information as the input to the certification process.
In the concept note we gave a list of examples and case studies to demonstrate how these suggestions can support and benefit the fashion industry in the transition to circular economy. Improving the quality of recycled materials, lowering cost of textile-to-textile recycling, speeding the scale-up of transition to circular economy and increasing wages of the waste workers are some of the potential impacts from improving the GRS / RCS certification system.

The full document, as we presented it to Textile Exchange, can be accessed here.

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