The council-led project is using the untapped resource of unwanted clothing and textiles as a performance additive in asphalt on the New Zealand city’s roads.
Wellington City Council has embarked on a circular economy trial using textiles as a performance additive in asphalt on its roads.
Textile waste is one of New Zealand’s fastest growing waste streams and its outsized impact relative to weight makes it an ideal focus for carbon reduction activities.
The council-led trial, in partnership with low-carbon clothing system specialist Usedfully, the Crown Research Institute, Scion and infrastructure company Fulton Hogan, is designed to create a circular economy system to reuse the untapped resource of unwanted clothing and textiles.
Improving the performance of the city’s roads, creating jobs and economic opportunity onshore while also reducing waste and emissions is a win-win-win scenario, said mayor Andy Foster.
“We’re supporting organisations, projects and initiatives that reflect a circular economy as part of our Te Atakura – First to Zero goal and our strong ambition to reduce our collective footprint on the planet.
“This trial is a perfect example of cross-collaboration and stewardship focused on improving sustainability for future generations.
“We’re proud to support Usedfully in this leading-edge work, which we hope will have applications to make a difference across New Zealand and then globally.”
Leading the co-design and building of a national circular economy for clothing and textiles, Usedfully began working with Scion exploring potential applications for waste textile fibre in New Zealand quickly sparking industry interest and funding.
“This trial is a perfect example of cross-collaboration and stewardship focused on improving sustainability for future generations”
Cellulose is currently imported for use as an additive in asphalt roading mix to stabilise it, improve its workability, homogeneity and the strength of the final road. Meanwhile, Wellington has an estimated 220,000 tonnes of potential fibre in the form of textiles going to landfill in New Zealand every year.
The Terrace between Ghuznee and Buller Streets will be the first section of road trialled with the new product. It’ll be laid with Strength-Tex, which incorporates 500kg of used textiles, conserving approximately 11,725kg C02e (carbon equivalent) and 568,500 litres water.
Reusing the fibres in roading will boost the roading industries resilience by reducing the country’s reliance on imported products and improve the performance of our roads. Diverting New Zealand’s textile from landfills could result in potential greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 400,000 tonnes CO2e a year.
“Strength-Tex is the first of a number of industrial scale solutions we have developed from unwanted textiles,” said Peter Thompson CEO of Usedfully, which aims to ensure textiles are utilised to their full potential through technology and research. “It not only provides a fit for purpose product for our roads and construction industry, it also supports organisations to take action on climate change by diverting their unwanted textiles from waste into local, real-world solutions.
“The success of this initiative is down to the expertise and enthusiasm of each of the partners involved, and also thanks to the support of Waka Kotahi and the Ministry for the Environment.”
Councillor Laurie Foon said the unique cross-sector collaboration is accelerating New Zealand’s transition to a low-carbon, circular economy.
She added: “We are hearing more and more about the circular economy and how it is a crucial component in future sustainability and protecting the environment, and our residents are demanding this sort of action from us and Central Government.
“The circular economy model lengthens the timeframe of products by reusing them, repurposing them, and building on their lifecycle. This trial ticks all those boxes, and we look forward to hearing the results, and this innovative approach becoming the norm not an anomaly.”
Organisations wanting to connect their unwanted textiles and clothing with these solutions can order a textile audit with Usedfully or become a partner in the Textile Reuse Programme.