Episode 92: Demystifying open loop and closed loop recycling, what is the difference?




Hello and welcome to episode 92 of the Fashion Unearthed podcast. I'm your host, Belinda Humphrey, and I hope everyone's doing well out there. There is a lot going on in the world and some days it can just feel a bit overwhelming, so I hope everyone is doing something, or able to do something, to relax their brain a little bit and take care of themselves. Now, today's episode is a little bit of a shorty. It's a quick little one just to get your brain thinking about things. But before I get into that, I did want to mention that one of my new offers for this year is a Circular Design Workshop, and this is really all about upskilling your team, or even your leadership team, into understanding what goes into designing products for circularity and some of the choices you need to make right at the start of the design process. So, like I said, this is specifically for product people or designers, but can equally be adapted to leadership teams. So if that is something that you're interested in to be able to hit your sustainability goals for this year and beyond, send me an email, info@belindahumphrey.com and we can have a chat about some of the options. 

Like I said, today's episode is a bit of a shorter one, but I thought it was an important one because it will help you broaden and build on your circular economy terms and knowledge so that you can really feel comfortable working in this space. 

So Closed Loop versus Open Loop. Closed loop means that the materials will circulate within the same sector, industry or market, and an example of this is when a garment is being recycled back into a garment. So wool garments have been recycled for hundreds of years with the purpose of turning them back into yarn for another item of clothing and outside of fashion. Glass bottles are another example of an item that gets recycled in a closed loop process and usually get recycled back into glass bottles. 

Open loop is where the waste of one sector becomes the input material of another sector. So I'm sure we're all very familiar with the example of PET bottles from the food industry being recycled into polyester fibres for the textile industry. And open loop recycling can also be known as downcycling. 

So, when it comes to recycling products, open loop and closed loop are the two systems that are used, and experts in the recycling area say that there will need to be some degree of open loop processing in the future, not everything will be able to be closed loop.

So that's it for today's episode, I hope that's given you a little bit of insight and extra vocabulary for your circular design knowledge and, as I said earlier, I've introduced a circular design workshop for this year, so if you are needing to upskill your team so you aren't left scrambling to catch up, send me an email, info@belindahumphrey.com and we can chat about some options. As always, you'll find the show notes and any links for today's episode on the website belindahumphrey.com in the podcast section. Thanks so much for listening. See you next time.

Thanks for listening to the Fashion Unearthed podcast. If you want to get in touch, head over to or you can find me on Instagram @BelindaHumphrey_ 

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure that information is accurate at the time of recording, much like the fashion industry itself, this information may change. 


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