Marubeni teams with US startup to recycle fiber for clothing

Nikkei Asia  August 16, 2019

TOKYO — Marubeni plans to manufacture clothing made from recycled materials starting next year, tapping the fiber-recycling technologies of an American startup that it is poised to invest in.

The Japanese trading house will take a roughly 1 billion yen ($9.4 million) interest in Virginia-based Tyton BioSciences, which has developed a way to recycle polyester and poly-cotton blends into the building blocks of polyester.

Amid growing interest in environmental, social and governance investment principles, major apparel makers are expanding offerings of eco-friendly products. Development of green materials is becoming more important for trading houses that provide clothing under manufacturing contracts.

Tyton aims to begin commercial production of recycled fiber sometime in 2020, with Marubeni planning to use the materials.

Fellow Japanese trading house Itochu began recommending materials made from recycled polyester to apparel companies in June, and these are expected to be adopted next spring. The company has been developing eco-friendly materials, having decided in 2018 to build a pilot plant for recycled fiber with a Finnish partner.

Fast Retailing, the Japanese company behind the Uniqlo casualwear brand, and Zara owner Inditex of Spain have pushed for the use of Earth-friendly shopping bags and packaging. Now the green movement is reaching clothing materials.

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