T-REX Project consortium: Introducing adidas

Major players from across the entire value chain collaborate towards demonstrating a potential scalable solution for textile-to-textile recycling in the T-REX Project. In our series of interviews with the consortium partners, we are in conversation with Alexandra Barrios, Senior Manager Technology Innovation at adidas. 
Back to overview

Describe your role at adidas.

adidas has been engaging in cross-industry, publicly funded research programs for over a decade now. The benefits of joining forces and building long-term partnerships with the public sector and other research and industry players is widely acknowledged in the company, and underpins a growing portfolio of projects, addressing innovation initiatives and industry and societal challenges that adidas sees its role in supporting to action change and demonstrate impact.  

My role within adidas is to lead the publicly funded research project T-REX.

Can you explain your participation in the T-REX Project?  

adidas is the coordinator of the T-REX Project and manages the entire consortium consisting of 13 major players from across the value chain. T-REX will provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities in transforming our supply chain into a circular model. Through this publicly funded research project, we leverage our learnings and then integrate them into the business. One outcome we are leading is to create circular design guidelines for apparel products to reduce waste and design for better recyclability.

Because of the size of the consortium and the technical aspects within the project which need to be understood and overcome, the role of a technical coordinator was required. Within my role, I have the overall responsibility of the T-REX Project as well as the technical management. I am responsible for guiding and managing technical work streams which are focusing on sorting, collecting, and recycling while ensuring project deliverables and translating the learnings from T-REX to enable adidas’ strategic positioning towards circularity.  

With my textile engineering background and with the experience I gained previously during the years working for the materials operations team in adidas the role was a good fit.  

What do you think is the biggest challenge the T-REX Project will need to overcome?   

When the T-REX Project was established, it was already known that the EU lacked an infrastructure for fibre-to-fibre recycling of post-consumer textile waste that would enable a closed-loop system. By bringing relevant partners from the value chain together, an ecosystem was created that would pilot and demonstrate a real-life scenario where textile waste would be collected, sorted, and chemically recycled into new garments. With this setup we are now able to practically explore where exactly the issues would lie within such an ecosystem. Apart from the technical challenges around sorting and recycling, where many parts are still in their infancy, there are also challenges around securing a consistent long-term feedstock supply, which should also be supported by standardised and harmonised data. Ultimately, economic viability needs to be kept in mind.  

At present, textile waste is not seen as a valuable resource; its only potential for generating income lies in its resale within second-hand markets. However, a significant change in perspective is necessary. A paradigm shift needs to happen for textile waste to be seen as a desired raw material feedstock for new fibres. This shift would benefit every participant in the value chain, turning waste into profit.

What is the biggest opportunity to unlock within textile-to-textile recycling?  

In my opinion, the upcoming regulations from the EU will push the industry into developing new business models around textile waste collection, sorting and recycling which will gradually solve some of the current challenges the industry is facing. By collecting more textile waste within the EU, subsidising end-of-use solutions and creating tools for collecting and harmonising the required data, new opportunities within the industry will occur.  

Future outlook: How do you envision the textile value chain in 2050?  

As described above, there are currently still many challenges that need to be overcome. However, those are not impossible to solve.  

In 2050, a textile value chain would be supported by scaled up technical solutions for automated sorting and technically mature recycling technologies. Sophisticated collecting systems will guarantee sufficient feedstock and will enable a flow of waste into the correct channels supported by harmonised data, turning post-consumer textile waste into a valuable resource. 

Other news articles

  • Meet the consortium
11 July

T-REX Project consortium: Introducing Indorama Ventures

T-REX Project brings together major players from across the entire value chain to create a harmonized EU blueprint for closed-loop sorting, and recycling of household textile waste. We spoke with Edo Lieven, commercial leader of the PET fibres and filaments business for the European Fashion and Lifestyle industry at Indorama Ventures, to discuss his role in the project, the challenges it addresses, and the future outlook for the sector.