We reunited with a former team member who has since made his move on changing the fashion industry and (perhaps most important of all) benefiting the environment…
Dom Hughes was one of the first former Humans of Bournemouth volunteers to join us when we rebranded to HQB Media last July, being behind the camera on some of our earliest videos. Since then, this Bournemouth local has moved into a far different industry — recycling. With the knowledge he acquired, he and his university housemate-turned-business partner Rob Hulmes, have founded Myriad, which focuses on promoting circular economy and has made a mission of reducing textile waste in the fashion industry. Dom joined us for a chat to discuss Myriad in more detail…
WHAT SPARKED THE IDEA FOR MYRIAD?
So, I worked in the recycling industry after graduation, which gave me an insight into end-of-life products and the journey they go on. One of the key things I took away from that was that recycling is good, but there’s so much more that we can do to take it a step further and obtain a greater value from the products. A lot of this boils down to how the products are designed.
Having learnt all this, it led me to take some courses with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, who are a major think tank on the idea of circular economy. I took part in the Linear to Circular Programme, and a circular economy masterclass, which was in collaboration with the University of Exeter. And these shed light on this new way of economic thinking — the circular economy — which designs out waste from the start, and keeps products and materials in use for as long as possible.
Rob actually works for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and we put our heads together, and we agreed that one of the major industries that require change is the fashion industry. 300,000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill every year in the UK alone, and only 1% is recycled into new clothing. So it was very much a case of understanding, “This is a problem — we can do better.”
WITH THAT IN MIND, WHAT IS MYRIAD’S SPECIFIC MISSION?
We are pushing for a circular fashion industry, where we can enable the products of today to become the resources of tomorrow. It’s not necessarily about fashion itself; we have a wider goal with trying to engage people with the circular economy. Fashion is an element of that. We’re trying to take what is largely a theoretical concept at the moment, but put it into action in a practical, real-life way that people can actually engage with. So, we’re going to be holding numerous campaigns; it just so happens that this one is based around clothing, and we have the addition of face coverings as well. Tying that in with the current times and what we think can bring the greatest value.
So these projects aren’t just about changing consumer habits; they’re also about driving industry leaders. Obviously, we’re so small, we’re not going to make that much of a difference – especially on our own. But hopefully, we can drive industry leaders to adopt these circular solutions and design out waste from the start.
WHAT CAN THE FASHION INDUSTRY DO TO REDUCE DETRIMENT TO THE ENVIRONMENT?
I had a think about this, and highlighted two major things that I think are important. Number One is the design phase — that’s where 80% of product-related environmental impacts are influenced. Today, clothes are rarely designed to be reprocessed. They are made from a mixture of materials, which impacts how recyclable they are. 60% of these clothes contain plastic-based fibres, which is a leading contributor of microfibre release into the oceans. Therefore, fashion companies must consider this in the design phase and ensure that their garments can be re-manufactured after use.
Another option in product design is to actually increase quality and design. A good way to illustrate it is — if the number of times a garment is worn doubled on average, the greenhouse gas emissions associated would be 44% lower. That’s quite significant when it comes down to it. So, it’s about increasing the practical service life of clothes.
The second important element is the end-of-life phase. If there is no infrastructure in place to bring a product back to the manufacturer, there’s no point and you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s still going to go to landfill and incineration. That’s where these circular business models come into play. Producers must take this massive responsibility and introduce take-back schemes, recycling schemes, or even repair initiatives. And that’s where we at Myriad think these take-back schemes could be really influential in the future of fashion. Looking at the next ten, twenty years… it could be pretty big!
One way to do this and actually get clothes back, is to use QR Codes. That will help facilitate the return and incentivise the customer to actually send it back. And that’s something that we do at Myriad. Two years down the line, if a product has worn out, the customer can send it back to us, and we give them £5 store credit.
MYRIAD IS STILL QUITE A NEW VENTURE. WHAT ARE THE IMMEDIATE NEXT STEPS?
It was effectively a quarantine project, but it is building momentum and it’s definitely something we want to take forward. At the moment, we’re working on expanding our range, as we’re predominantly T-shirts, right now. But as I mentioned earlier, we have turned our attention to face coverings in the last month or so. We collaborated with another University of Exeter alumnus, Melisa Gooding, and adopted circular economy principles to offer high-quality, reusable face coverings. As you know these are compulsory in shops in England from Friday 24th July (and they’re already compulsory in Scotland).
While this measure is designed to protect us from Coronavirus, their use does have a down side; namely, the single-use plastics that are getting created. Globally, we’re using 129 billion face masks every month. And according to the WWF, the incorrect disposal of just 1% of the masks results in as many as 10 million masks per month polluting the environment. That’s if just 1% of masks are discarded incorrectly — that’s an awful amount!
So what we’re trying to change is — unless you’re in the medical profession, so you need a medical face mask, the best thing that people like us can do is use a reusable one. They can be washed and worn again and again. If anything, it’s more cost-effective than getting a big pack of single-use ones. And as we stick to the circular economy principles, we’re using up-cycled fabrics – giving a new lease of life to old clothes, while reducing the plastic pollution associated with single-use masks. All of these masks are triple-lined with a pocket so that you can add a filter, and are machine-washable.
Other immediate steps for us include photo shoots — this is something we’ve been a bit limited on over lockdown, being able to get out and shoot the products. That’s something we’re hoping to do in the next couple of weeks, with a couple of trips planned (including one in Scotland). And then also partnering up with the Planet Earth Games. They were established in Exeter — the world’s first multi-sport environment-themed event. Sadly, this year, it can’t go ahead physically; it will be going ahead virtually. We’re partnering with them and will be helping to deliver a challenge on 22nd August.
WHAT ARE YOUR AMBITIONS FOR MYRIAD?
I know you usually ask about an end goal; when it comes to circular economy, there isn’t really “an end”. We want it to keep moving and there are a lot of mindsets to change. So we’re set on building Myriad in the right way. With a consideration for people and the planet, that comes before profit – that’s what we’re all about. We will endeavour to keep promoting circular economy to a hopefully ever-growing audience and continue to apply the principles that we’re founded upon.
You can find out more about Myriad and their products on their website, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. For other local stories about the environment, click here. And you can also follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.