Upcycling in the Circular Economy: The Novetex Upcycling Spinning Mill in Hong Kong

By Hau Lee, Edwin Keh, Christopher S. Tang
2020 | Case No. GS93 | Length 14 pgs.

Novetex, one of the world’s largest single-site spinners, was celebrating the opening of its new spinning mill in 2018. The Hong Kong-based company had spent four decades expanding its operations, and its main factory was in Zhuhai, in southern China. But this new facility would be in Hong Kong, and would produce yarn from waste material in Hong Kong’s textile and apparel industry.

This case looks at Novetex’s commitment to environmental sustainability, and efforts to become a leader in developing cleaner solutions by focusing on circular economy solutions within the global textile and apparel industry. Global clothing production had doubled within two decades, reflecting the rise of the middle class consumer in countries like China, and increasing sales in affordable fast fashion in mature economies. But the apparel industry was a top industrial polluter, accounting for 10 percent of global carbon emissions; the polyester and nylon textile industry, moreover, released about a half-million tonnes of plastic microfibers into the oceans each year.

This case study looks at the evolution and risks of “upcycling” technologies within the textile industry, and the science and partnerships behind the new Novetex Upcycling Factory in Hong Kong, which aimed to demonstrate the profitability and environmental sustainability of circular economy practices.

Learning Objective

This case study introduces the circular economy concept, and its application within the global textile and apparel industry through process innovations. Students can evaluate the complex partnerships involved in bringing retailers, supply chains, and consumers on board to rethink ways to make the industry less wasteful, and create value from material that would otherwise end up in landfills.
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