Ambercycle and Avery Dennison Work Together to Close the Supply-Chain Loop
The end of life for clothing often leads to the landfill, creating an enormous fashion-waste problem for the industry. Solving the problem together, Los Angeles–headquartered Ambercycle and Glendale, Calif., label, tag and RFID developer Avery Dennison have developed an option to ensure unwanted clothing can be recycled into new garments rather than become the pollutive alternative of littering the planet.
After launching Ambercycle in 2015 with business partner and company Chief Technology Officer Moby Ahmed, the business’s chief executive officer, Shay Sethi, was focused on developing a molecular regeneration–based clothing-recycling process to become an end-of-life option for the materials that are regenerated into the company’s Cycora yarns and fabrics at its Los Angeles site. While this technology was groundbreaking, there remained loose ends that needed to be tied up, specifically regarding traceability to keep Ambercycle garments within a closed-loop system from the company to the consumer and returned to the plant at the end of life to be recycled again.
“Circularity is this idea in which things that we use are going back into the supply chain. We felt that there has to be some sort of digital infrastructure built on top of this new technology foundation. When we started discussing with Avery Dennison this idea of creating a digital passport, they said, ‘We already have this.’ It was a very good fit,” Sethi explained. “Not only do you need the chemical infrastructure to say, ‘Okay, an old garment can become a new garment,’ but this layer of how we get garments back into the system is really important.”
Through a QR code on the label affixed to Ambercycle clothing, customers are able to scan the piece and learn the supply-chain history of the garment. An Avery Dennison application and data platform shows customers the production processes and elements that a garment contains and then leads them through the process of disposing of the clothing by returning it to Ambercycle, which recycles it into a textile.
At Avery Dennison, sustainability has been part of its 86-year history, with recent announcements including the introduction of its Sustainable ADvantage portfolio, which includes all of its ecologically sound offerings. For Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of compliance and sustainability for Avery Dennison retail branding and information solutions, the opportunity to provide these options to apparel partners such as Ambercycle is integral to reaching true sustainability.
“One of the areas we really see is unique right now is in the space of substantiality and digital and digital really being able to provide a solution for sustainability,” Shakespeare said. “Our partnership with Ambercycle is about being able to create that transparency of a supply chain and really helping consumers get the garments back to the right locations at end of life. Circularity and end of life is a space we’re really seeing quickly develop.”
With the Avery Dennison technology, apparel brands such as Ambercycle, which manufacture in the United States, are able to provide proof to customers that their goods are made domestically by telling their stories of authenticity within the application. Working with emerging brands, Avery Dennison—which recently became a member of the Forest Stewardship Council—is able to build momentum by making the technology accessible to many. As consumers become acclimated to using the technology, it will allow these enormous strides in ecologically sound apparel manufacturing to be taken by a greater number of customers more easily.
“The partnerships that we’ve had with emerging brands and designers have really given us the platform to talk about these innovations,” said Amy Lee, senior manager of trends and insights for apparel at Avery Dennison. “When we’re working with the bigger brands, we can’t talk publicly about new products and launches. It’s really great to have that platform and the story to share with all of our customers and give guidance and examples of how they can adopt it and where to start. That has been invaluable.”
As Sethi builds the Ambercycle presence within textile and apparel manufacturing, the company has partnered with designers to manufacture collections with sustainably minded brands. In May, Cycora x MsLyon launched with ecologically aware designer Madeleine Lyon, with additional partnerships in the works, including Cycora x Knarli.
“The most important thing about our business is accelerating the transition to a circular world in which materials are being reused and remanufactured and regenerated back into new materials,” Sethi said. “The best thing about the Avery Dennison partnership is that it’s a tangible realization of this shift where we are trying to work with customers, community members and figure out ways in which the system can be realized.”