Testing Circularity in Hospitality

From transitioning away from single-use plastics and reducing offerings of foods that are unethically sourced or entail energy-intensive production, some of the world’s largest hotel companies are actively identifying solutions to drive their sustainability goals forward.

In part due to a lack of recycling solutions, increasing the circularity of hotel textiles such as bedlinens, tablecloths, and napkins has been somewhat amiss in the narrative—that is, until now.

Endless possibilities: Yarn made from recycled fibres produced by The Billie System can be used to create a variety of products, including blankets, scarves, and other knit items.

A concrete solution

In 2019, Novetex Textiles launched The Billie System, an upcycling factory in Tai Po, Hong Kong. The patented six-step system processes textile waste such as discarded clothing and excess inventory, converting these into thoroughly sanitised strips of fibre known as slivers. The process uses no water, and produces no hazardous discharge. Once broken down into fibres, these are ready to be spun into yarn. Typically, recycled fibres from The Billie System are blended with varying percentages of virgin fibre, depending on the envisioned end-product.

While originally conceived to address Novetex Textiles’ internally produced textile waste, The Billie System offers a world of possibilities for sustainable solutions in various other industries. In recapturing the value of materials considered as ‘waste’, The Billie System is creating a second life for materials that already exist within the ecosystem, diverting these textiles from ending up in landfills.

Frequently washed and eventually replaced to uphold a certain standard of luxury, bed linens count among the high volume of textiles used and later eliminated at many hotels all over the world.

Circularity in hospitality

With greater awareness of climate change and its implications, as well as increasingly environmentally conscious guests, hotel brands have grown more determined to find solutions to manage their waste. As such, an improved circularity in hotel textiles has rightfully become a topic of interest.

As in other industries that rely heavily on textiles, a key principle is to prolong the life of materials by keeping these in use for as long as possible. For many properties, in particular luxury hotels that practise the regular replacement of bedlinens and other textiles, the challenge lies in maintaining high standards while committing to sustainability goals.

Given the high volume of textiles used, and later eliminated, recycling is not only ideal, but necessary. Businesses must consider not just the material care of textiles while these are in use, but also the before-and-after, through responsible sourcing, recycling, and upcycling practices.

How The Billie System can make a difference

In introducing The Billie System to the hospitality sector, the objective is for companies to see recyclable materials in a new light: as a potential new resource, instead of simply identifying these as waste.

As a recycling partner, The Billie System provides a link that has been missing for some time. With the capacity to process three tonnes of textile waste daily, The Billie System could process a batch of hotel textiles and arrive at recycled, thoroughly sanitised slivers. Once spun into yarn, these can create entirely new, usable products. 

At The Billie System’s factory in Tai Po, Hong Kong

These products can be anything from garments, such as knit sweaters and scarves, to accessories such as blankets, coasters, cushion covers, laundry and shoe bags, tote bags, and more, which can then be used in hotel rooms or as gift items.

Putting things into context, recycled fibres could reduce the use of conventional virgin fibres such as cotton, for instance, which accounts for about 3 percent of global water use according to the United Nations[1].

Steering the course

“Essentially, we don’t believe that landfills should be the natural next step for discarding textile waste, in whatever form they may be,” says Ronna Chao, Chairman of Novetex Textiles, which invested in and developed The Billie System. The Billie is currently trialling this circular model with hotel companies in Hong Kong and Macau.

Recognising that recycling solutions such as The Billie may not have been directly accessible to hotels and other companies in the past, Chao says she and her team consider a shift in outlook the ultimate success. “We want to promote a mindset of ‘What can we do with this instead?’ If we can play even a small part in changing perspectives, that would be an enormous achievement.”

[1]Measuring Sustainability in Cotton Farming Systems: Towards a Guidance Framework,’ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations