'United Repair Centre' opens in Amsterdam to tackle textile waste

Social impact company Makers Unite and outdoor clothing brand Patagonia have opened the 'United Repair Centre' (URC) in Amsterdam, aiming to provide a solution for disposable clothes by performing repairs for customers across Europe.

United Repair CentreThe URC also hopes to make it easier for brands to incorporate repair and reuse into their business models, countering the negative impacts of the textile industry.

According to the partnering companies, the URC works as follows:

  1. The consumer purchases a product from a URC-member brand.
  2. Over time, the product will be in need of repair due to use.
  3. The consumer then contacts the brand, which facilitates that the product reaches the URC.
  4. The product is repaired by the URC.
  5. The product is returned to the consumer by the URC and can be worn again for a long time.

The URC’s intention is to encourage brands and consumers to repair clothing instead of buying new – ‘extending the life of the garment and reducing its footprint’. An average of one million pounds of textile waste would be prevented if the centre makes 300,000 repairs per year, Patagonia says.

Alongside Patagonia, the Dutch clothing brand Scotch and Soda has also joined the UCR.

Europeans have bought 40 per cent more clothing on average over the past 20 years, making the textile industry responsible for 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

The project warns that if this continues, by 2030 the industry’s global water use (79 billion m3 per year), CO2 emissions (1,715 million tons per year) and waste production (92 billion kilos per year) will have increased by more than 50 per cent since 2015 and will double before 2050.

Repairing can extend ‘the useful life of a garment’, with Patagonia noting that  ‘wearing a garment for nine months longer reduces the CO2 emissions of that product by 27 per cent, water consumption by 33 per cent and waste by 22 per cent’.

Employment and training for people who have challenges finding work are also offered by the organisation. The parties involved were brought together by the Amsterdam Economic Board and are supported by a consortium of Dutch investors with a focus on social impact.

Thami Schweichler, Managing Director and Co-founder of Makers Unite, said: "The apparel industry is at the beginning of a new era, where repairs and other new services will make more impact.

“We are addressing the apparel industry now, because something desperately needs to be done. For us, it's a unique opportunity to create valuable jobs and we feel it makes sense to do this with people who are currently struggling to get a job."

Willem Swager, Director of Finance & Operations EMEA at Patagonia, added: "Structural change is needed in the textile industry.

“That’s why Patagonia is calling on brands to not only look at more sales, but also to stimulate reuse and longer wear of clothing through repair and recycling. It needs to become normal for more clothing brands to offer this as a service and see it as business as usual.”