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Academic Papers

The sustainable future of the Scottish textiles sector: Challenges and opportunities of introducing a circular economy model.


Case description

Zero Waste Scotland introduced the concept of the circular economy to the Scottish textiles sector at events throughout 2013 to 2014. In April 2014, it commissioned research by independent consultants to examine the academic and industrial textile landscapes in Scotland, including developments in technical textiles and research into innovation in textile design and examples of circular economy models.

The research identified several initiatives, including projects producing an alternative to denim and one developing cavity wall insulation from processed natural fibres. It made recommendations to Zero Waste Scotland about shaping the future landscape of textile innovation in Scotland and offered examples of the circular economy from Scandinavia that might be applicable.


The paper can be accessed here:


Circular Economy Route Map For Glasgow 2020
Glasgow City Council

Making Things Last - A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland
Natural Scotland - Scottish Government

From 2013 – 2016, Dr Wilson was part of the pioneering, Circular Economy team, Zero Waste Scotland, who developed the initial evidence and engagement for Scotland’s CE strategy.

Design for a Circular Economy - An Action Plan
Zero Waste Scotland
Christopher Harris, Anna Whicher

From 2013 – 2016, Dr Wilson was part of the pioneering, Circular Economy team, Zero Waste Scotland, who commissioned this report.

Sustainable Consumption for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services - The Cases of Cotton, Soy and Lithium
Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
Lea Kliem, Jonas Pentzien, Marco Baldauf, Anahita Bidjanbeg, Horst Fehrenbach, Andreas Auberger, Susanne Köppen

September 2019, Dr Wilson was invited by the Ministry of the Environment, German Government, to the launch of this document and to contribute to a workshop exploring how to implement changes within the report.

Circular Economy Wardrobe: Exploring Circular Economy Textile Models in Japan
Churchill Foundation
Lynn Wilson

Scottish textiles, particularly Harris Tweed woven cloth and cashmere knitwear, are key exports to Japan whilst Scotland has been importing Japanese textile technology from companies such as Shima Seiki for the last 50 years. However, there exists a growing opportunity to adopt new techniques in garment production and consumption from Japanese culture to improve the circularity of Scotland’s fashion industry. Lynn was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Fellowship in 2015. The origin of this website and the title ‘circular economy wardrobe’ is inspired by her one-month trip to Japan in October 2015. This report contains recordings, findings and the recommendations based on how these could be applied to Scottish and the wider UK design, retail and heritage business sectors.


The purpose of the Fellowship was to understand what textile processing systems, design and heritage solutions the Japanese textile industry and related industries are developing to scale up a move towards a circular economy. This will be based on textile apparel design and production and reprocessing to reduce the wasting of existing materials. By the end of this trip, it was aimed to answer the following questions:


  1. What technology has Japan developed to support post-consumer and post-industrial textile processing and enable ‘closed loop’ systems?

  2. What retail trends are happening in Japan that contribute towards a circular economy?

  3. What can we learn from Japanese traditional design methods?

  4. How can we help consumers make sustainable, circular textile/fashion choices?


During the trip, it was found that technology utilised in Japan is available that could be applied in the UK, but this requires a critical mass of feedstock to work effectively, and post-consumer clothing can be reprocessed and made into textiles, but it is not ‘closed loop.’ Examining this finding further, it was found that 80% of a product’s environmental impact can be determined at the design stage which can take inspiration from the kimono – a fully zero waste design in practice. In addition, zero waste garment knitting technology is available and can aid circular economy if utilised to produce products supported by a return system. Exploring the retail environment, fashion leasing, eco villages, vintage/retro fashion boutiques have been utilised in Japan that could be adopted Scottish retailers to reduce overconsumption and resource depletion. Finally, several environmental impact assessment tools are available and used by the global apparel industry were identified. It is hoped that the research will advance Scotland into becoming a destination for new businesses setting up circular processing systems that can service the whole of the UK.


The publishing of this report coincided with the Scottish Government’s announcement of a £70 million investment package for Scotland from the European Regional Development Fund to embed circular economy models, practice across key industry sectors, and develop new business models. This should also contribute towards Scotland achieving a low carbon economy.

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Circular Economy Wardrobe
British Council - Architecture and Fashion Fund, 2017
Lynn Wilson

This free downloadable education pack is aimed at anyone who wants to explore their own clothing and textile consumption in relation to what a circular economy is. By raising awareness of what's in our wardrobes and asking ourselves questions about what do we know about the things we buy, we begin to become more informed, engaged product users who make better product user choices.

  • Circular economy

  • Zero waste

  • Sustainability

  • Design and manufacturing

These resources have been funded by the British Council as an extension grant of the Churchill Foundation.


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