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Retalhar is a social business that promotes reverse logistics of corporate uniforms by disposing it in a socio-environmental friendly way.



Retalhar is a social business specialized in conscious reverse logistics of corporate garments, which means we repurpose them in a socio-environmental friendly way, by exclusively reusing or recycling. In 2012, Brazil has produced over than 256 million of workwear, approximately 77.000 tons that are in companies (either private or governmental). We transform the uniform dispose issue into socioenvironmental innovation guaranteeing the security of logos. Retalhar revalue the garments, believing that any waste can be a resource for somebody anywhere.

Therefore, we provide the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the economy of natural resources, reducing the demand of extraction of new raw materials.

On the social side, our employees come from marginalized communities, such as ex-prisoners and refugees. In addition, we have an inclusive value chain, working with small seamstresses groups in situations of general vulnerability that found in the seam a tool for transforming their life conditions. More than providing income, we work on the empowerment of these groups

On the ground, we offer to our clients some ways to friendly dispose their old garments by transforming it in: 1) textile recycling 2) popular blankets, 3) corporate gifts or 4) available to reuse.
In this scenario, Retalhar helps the company to fulfil its social and environmental responsibility. Besides that, from the environmental perspective the company contributes to a low carbon economy, as well as fitting them to the Brazilian National Solid Waste Policy (Law 12.305/2010), that attribute the responsibility for all companies to proper disposal of all waste generated in their operations.

So far, Retalhar has impacted directly the life of 32 women of six small seamstresses groups and generated to them around U$14.000. About 11 tons of textiles waste from 18 different companies have not been landfilled nur incinerated, avoiding the emission of 168,8 tCO2e. 

Category of the action

Reducing emissions from waste management

What actions do you propose?

Retalhar has on its DNA social-environmental values that are priority in every circumstance that we are involved.  Being a social business we understood the market needs and how we could match our ideology with this inputs. Therefore our actions consider evenly social, environmental and market claims. Below we promote further explanations.

1 - Social values: the textile supply chain often faces questionings about labour rights, and it is well known that this issue is historical and recurring. It is also known that out there are alternative organizational models that prioritize the circular, collaborative, fair and creative economy. Given these scenarios, Retalhar opts to work along small seamstress groups that have on their roots human and collaborative values. We see these groups as entrepreneurs/business that has is motivation and technical sewing skills but lacking of basic management abilities.  Thus, we play as bridge to access knowledge, consultancies and methods to generate empowerment and self-sustainability.  

Even that it seems simple, it is a great challenge to identify, diagnose and set up a methodology that comprehends all the assumptions above.      

2 – Environmental values: Due to an eminent and scientifically proved climate changing, Retalhar has been set up to also face this challenge. We know that this matter has several lines of thought and actions and is necessary to be positioned.

Retalhar sees the solid waste as a relevant theme among the climate change issue. The incorrect solid disposal promotes untreated emission of Green Houses Gases such HFCs, CFCs, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, among others that contains high Global Warming Potentials. Therefore being a solid waste manager, Retalhar is an active player that promotes practices to decelerate the climate change.    

In Brazil, the textile waste market has solid, structured and low costs mechanisms to deal with general clothes pos-consume and production waste process (virgin raw material), whereas uniforms are neglected by the textile waste market by its high costs to benefit it to become usable or recyclable. Assuming that this gap of market is under exploited, interesting to friendly sustainable companies (whose have the environmental liability) and thus, short term profitable. In order to disseminate the principles of circular economy we aim to valorise every textile waste. Currently, without Retalhar, the market pays for a kg of production textile waste about U$0.05/kg and the culture of donate clothes is deeply rooted. Therefore this system is low cost structured which can mean low social development. Currently the technology available transforms new fabrics waste into needled fabric and it can be applied in up to 40 products. However, garments are used fabrics and it makes the value (quality / financial) of the material decrease.  

The current process of disposing garments barely consider the best environmental results (above explained). For instance, when landfilling this material the solid waste problem is ignored. In addition, this method takes advantage of the Brazilian National Solid Waste Policy (Law 12.305/2010), that attributes the responsibility for companies to proper disposal of all waste generated in their operations. The law shows clearly a hierarchy to manage the solid waste: (I) reduce the waste generation; (II) Reuse; (III) Recycle; (IV) Co-incineration; (V) Proper landfill. However, financially speaking the costs to follow this hierarchy are opposite that it claims, for instance it is cheaper to dispose in landfill than change processes to avoid waste generation. The law also suggests social inclusion throughout the mechanism.

Retalhar is structured to be a player that follows and disseminates the Law 12.305/2010. We fits our clients into this legislation by practicing exclusively reusing and recycling process.    

3 – Logos Security: currently companies’ drive their garments to low friendly environmental process (i.e. incineration and landfill) once they need to guarantee their brand image. In this way, they ensure the non-use of their garments inappropriate.

Based on the market needs and seeking for a high friendly environmental process, we had to develop a methodology for this brand safety image.  When the client assign with Retalhar we detailed count all the material received, generating technical documentation. This documentation presents the amount of logos, buttons, zippers and general sewing materials.  After that, we manually remove all logos, segregate them by size, layout, etc., and destroy them, in an industrial process. This process is filmed, photographed and documented, generating evidences.  

4 - Marketing: currently the sustainable model has been highly accepted and valued by social sectors, especially companies. Therefore they encourage, support and invest in innovation that is linked with sustainable development. Because Retalhar lives and apply such practices, we have a great field to explore. Thinking on it, Retalhar delivers a full report containing financial, social and environmental measurement results and thus providing several arguments that the companies can explore own their behalf.  

   Placed the above assumptions, we developed a methodology that it is low carbon dependent, legal approved, social inclusive and market validated. To do so the flowchart is below described:

a) Receiving the garment;
b) Counting and segregating the garment;
c) Generating technical documentation;
d) Sanitization of all garments;
e) Manual removal of logos;
f) Generating evidences of logo disable;
g) Execution of client demand;
h) Reporting the action;

After all garments have had their logos removed, we offer four options for the conscious reverse logistic:

1 – Textile recycling: The simply action of recycling the uniforms turning this into textile fibres and reinsert these material in the Industry, such as Civil Construction industry, Automotive Industry, Thermic Fabric, etc.

2 – Popular blankets:  The textiles fibres resultant of the textile recycling process (above described) is also raw material for popular blankets that is delivered to the client to carry out a social winter campaign.

3 – Reuse: Many uniforms disposed by the companies were used for a few times or are in good conditions to be reused and can be donate for charity. Retalhar will then adequate the garments, replace the logo brand of the company for a piece of fabric, and then donate it on behalf of the client’s name.

4 – New products: The uniform is raw material for artisanal products. In this case, Retalhar connect the necessity of the companies with the ability of the small seamstress groups to create products that are bought by the client. 

Who will take these actions?

Retalhar links the stakeholders of the entire process.

The government and social interests are attended by respecting and following the current legislation.

Our clients are companies interested in the proper environmental disposal of their uniforms, paying for the services of conscious logistic reverse. Such interest comes from the brand security approach (logo safety) and a truly sustainable supply chain.

Being a social business, the small seamstress groups are also benefitted by our mechanisms throughout operational process and empowerment vision.

Retalhar also works along with industrial companies such laundry companies and textile recycling plants.

   Finally, being a sustainable player within the textile industry we also dialogue with organizations that follows similar principles as we follow. 

Where will these actions be taken?

This action is currently happening in the Great São Paulo, Brazil. The idea is to expand to Brazilian Industrial Polos, such as Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Recife, Salvador, etc.

What are other key benefits?

Retalhar promotes recycling and reusing of textiles. We also live different models of work organisation that privileges human’s life first than profit. By following the recycling and reusing tracks, Retalhar preserves natural resources and consequently several environmental impacts from productions chain as well as becomes part of an economy based to ensure the best use of a raw material. From the social view, the benefits appear by stimulating and fomenting almost 50 women (spread in 6 groups) that have organised themselves to promote better life quality to them, through cooperativism, self-management and fair trade principles.

So far, about 11 tons of textiles waste were recycled/reused, avoiding the emission of 168,8 tCO2e and the consumption of  580.522,05 KWh, and generating around U$14.000 for the small seamstress groups. 

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Retalhar has a strong scientific base when discussing the environmental impacts evaluation. We have accessed several publications, articles and reports from all over the world seeking to estimate how much our work benefits the environment. One of the measurement that we fortunately apply is about the Green Houses Gases emitted to: (i) produce the clothes that we have received and (ii) practising recycling and reusing, the emissions avoided.

In numbers and taking some assumptions, to produce 11.48 ton of garments that we managed the dispose, we estimate that were emitted 302.292,47 tCO2e. By reusing and recycling this amount, Retalhar avoided the emission of 168.8 tCO2e.    

Increasing costumers loyalty, exists a potential of 15 tons annually, just in the city of São Paulo, of garments to be recycle, avoiding the emission of, at least, 220 tCO2e/year.

What are the proposal’s costs?

The cost of these actions vary depending of quantities of material, the difficult of the process (number of logo and general textile material) and what delivery the client wish (Textile recycle, popular blanket, Reuse or new products). Today the cost for a company vary around R$3,00/ kg to R$8,00/ kg ( U$0,80/kg to U$2,30/kg). The garments cleaning and recycling process are outsourced today and it represents the majority of our production cost. Our plan is to internalize those processes so we can reduce price up to 20%, leading to an increase of material managed and therefore our impact. 

Time line

Short Term - We are aware that the textile waste problem is hugger than just garments. However, strategically, in the short term our work is based to revalue the practice of disposing garments. In the next 5 years we work to have achieved our structural, methodological and financial establishment and in 15 years we intent to be working nationwide.

Middle Term –We aim to have developed a technology that ensure the revalue of used fabric. Achieving it, we definitely expand our scope to any textile waste once both textile waste will have similar value. Therefore, in the middle term, we seek to develop an ecosystem of full textile waste valorisation that brings social, environmental equally to economic development.

Long Term – We believe that after to have set up the business model of revaluating textile waste, by reusing and recycling, this mechanism will support the financing of the Universidade Retalhar, a college dedicated to promote Sustainable Fashion. By promoting this major theme and being a solid institution, it is possible to follow a horizon related to the educational perspective.

Related proposals

Materials Matter -


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