The Virginia-based textile recycling start-up Circ has raised $30 million in a series B funding round. The investment was led by the Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures and joined by the clothing retailer Inditex and the textile manufacturer Milliken, among other new and existing investors.
Circ’s central claim is that it can recycle cotton-polyester textile blends containing any ratio of the two fiber types. The dual outputs can then be used to make cellulosic textiles such as lyocell or viscose on the one hand and new polyester textiles on the other. The firm is guarded about the chemical details of its process, saying “Circ’s technology is based in hydrothermal technology—water, pressure, and responsible chemistry.”
If successful, the technology will get around one of the main barriers to widespread recycling of fabric by tackling both components of cotton-poly blends, which make up a major portion of the textiles produced every year. Existing recycling processes often treat one or the other component as waste, if they can handle blends at all.
Tiffany Hua, an analyst at the market intelligence firm Lux Research, points to Infinited Fiber, which raised $36 million in 2021 for cellulose-fiber recycling, and Ambercycle, which raised $21.6 million in January for polyester recycling. Circ, she says, “is facing a difficult challenge of recycling post-consumer blended garments while others focus on simpler feedstocks and processes.”
“$30 million is no small amount,” Hua says of Circ’s fundraising, but textile recyclers will also need participation from garment makers and other consumer goods firms “to ensure textiles are efficiently and responsibly designed, manufactured, and recovered to ease the costs and complexity of recycling post-consumer textile waste.”
In a press release about the funding, Circ CEO Peter Majeranowski says his firm has that participation. “With this investment round, we’ve secured suppliers, purchasers, and major financial stakeholders to establish a much cleaner fashion future,” he says. Majeranowski says the firm plans to use the funds to engineer larger-scale facilities, support product launches, and hire engineering, R&D, management, and business development staff.