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Textile recycling startup SuperCircle raises $7M

Colored bins, which sit in a warehouse, are used to sort textiles that will be recycled.

Photo: Courtesy of SuperCircle

SuperCircle, a New York-based textile recycling logistics platform, raised $7 million, co-founders Chloe Songer and Stuart Ahlum tell Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Most clothing brands have not been successful in progressing towards the goal of becoming truly circular — defined as a garment that's repeatedly reused, repaired and recycled before it's discarded.

Details: The pre-Series A round was co-led by Radicle Impact and Ulu Ventures, and included Earthshot Ventures, BBG Ventures, Lyra Ventures and Blueprint Ventures.

Zoom in: Proceeds will be invested in infrastructure that links shipping, consolidation, sorting, grading and recycling services to meet the growing demand from domestic and international retailers and brands.

How it works: SuperCircle's logistics platform lets brands collect and process pre- and post-consumer apparel and footwear, while offering tracking and tracing at the garment level. Songer says.

  • "This is a first of its kind technology that both enables fiber-to-fiber recycling and provides real time impact metrics to our partners," she says.
  • Customers include Reformation, Parachute, A.L.C., Tentree and Uniqlo US, among others.

Zoom out: About 60% of clothing ends up in landfills within a year after purchase due to a rise in fast fashion and e-commerce, Ahlum says.

  • A 2019 McKinsey report found less than 1% of textiles produced for clothing is recycled into new clothes — representing a $100 billion-plus missed revenue opportunity annually.
  • Current infrastructure is not in place to support the existing level of waste, Ahlum says.
  • Retailers and brands tend to be great at design and marketing, but not at technology or logistics.
  • So they need partners on those fronts to meet their recycling or circularity goals.

Catch up fast: In 2018 there was no such thing as circularity technology investments, but now there are entire VC and PE funds devoted solely to this thesis, Ahlum says.

By the numbers: SuperCircle has recycled over 1 million garments since its founding last year.

  • It started with one warehouse, which then grew to three, with plans to now add three more.
  • Near-term, the goal is to process a million units or items — which includes bedding in addition to clothing — per month.

Of note: Alongside CEO Songer and COO Ahlum, the company was also co-founded by CTO Phong Nguyen.

Editor's note: This story has been clarified to note Uniqlo US is one of SuperCircle's customers, not Uniqlo.

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