colourloop Co., Ltd.
“Making benches from used clothing and old cloth”Color is the key to the up-cycling of waste fibers: Vol. 1
Ms. Motoko Uchimaru, CEO, Colourloop Co., Ltd.

Used clothing and old cloth that were destined to be discarded will be recycled for each color and up-cycled into benches at the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan. Amid the problem of mass disposal of textile products such as clothes, an initiative using a new recycling technology will be implemented through the collaboration of three companies from different industries. What was the motivation behind the three companies’ decision to engage in the initiative?

At the Yokohama factory of NAKANO, a long-established textile recycling company, colorful used clothing was put on a conveyor belt and sorted by employees for each recycling purpose. Within a few hours, the used clothing was piled up to a height of about 5 meters. The processes of cutting it into wiping/scrubbing cloth and converting it back to cotton are done after it is sent to NAKANO’s Philippine plant.

A large quantity of clothes is discarded each year, but only a small percentage are reused or recycled in this way. Most of them were disposed of by incineration, which has always been frustrating for me as a designer. Motoko Uchimaru, CEO of Colourloop Co., Ltd., spoke of the struggles she has faced as she stood in front of a pile of sorted clothes.

After graduating from college, Uchimaru got a job in designing candy wrappers. However, no matter how elaborate the design was, it soon ended up in the trash because of the outer packaging. Feeling a sense of emptiness, Uchimaru became a textile designer, who designs textiles and fabrics, and honed her skills in the United Kingdom, the home of textile design. However, as she became more involved in her work, she came across the same question again.

The garments they worked so hard to design bore customers in a few years, and are discarded one after another, together with unsold ones. “If this situation continues, it is as if we are working to produce trash. It’s not good enough to just continue to make clothes.” Deciding to pursue her own interests, she entered the graduate school of Kyoto Institute of Technology, where she studied under Professor Teruo Kimura (currently Professor Emeritus), who is known as a pioneer in the textile recycling research field.

Clothing made from a mixture of different materials is difficult to sort and is not easy to recycle from a technical standpoint. And even when recycled, the miscellaneous fibers are processed as a whole, resulting in dull colors, which are generally turned into industrial materials. In an attempt to break out of this situation, Uchimaru devised a method of sorting used clothes by color rather than by material to turn them into cotton, which is then mixed with colorful felt, yarn, and resin to be recycled into FRP (Fiber Reinforced Plastic) sheets and molded products. She has also succeeded in numerically standardizing highly likable color combinations and acquired a doctorate in research on a “color recycling system” that can up-cycle a wide variety of clothing into well-designed products.

In 2019, she launched the university venture “Colourloop Co., Ltd.” with this technology. In collaboration with various companies, the company has been attracting attention by reviving waste textiles into original stationery such as pen cases and notebook covers, as well as daily necessities such as tote bags.

(Continuing into Vol. 2)

Collected used clothing

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