Saving the World from Fashion

The fashion and textile industries have the second-largest environmental impact after coal and oil. Anna grinvald is putting forth the know-how to recycle waste in this industry and make a difference in the world.

Anna Grinvald, CEO of Grinvald Footwear and GTS Group, is pushing for sustainable recycled products and a circular economy in China.

Grinvald came to Dongguan in 2009 with her family after her husband took a job with a plastic injection company. She said it was completely different from Israel, where she is from, and Thailand, where she lived before.

“Very few people could speak English. There were a lot of changes… Women were treated less than men, so it was difficult work-wise to find a workplace suitable to my career,” Grinvald said.

It took two years to adjust, but now Dongguan is her home.

“I decided I would follow my dream and open my own company. The company started first with me learning Chinese and second was producing packings for the footwear industry,” Grinvald said.

From there she signed a contract with an Israeli company for plastic injection molding to represent in China, as well as invested in her own sustainable production for footwear.

GTS Group and Grinvald Footwear joined the Fashion Pact at the beginning of 2019, which is an initiative set forth by the G7 Summit.

“The fashion industry employs more than 50 million people in the world, and the turnover is more than $39 billion per year. This means it’s one of the biggest industries in the world, but it’s also the most polluted one…. In order to color denim or to color and produce leather, you use a lot of chemicals. There is a lot of pollution in the water. There is a lot of waste: rejects that are being thrown out and destroying our world,” Grinvald said.

The Fashion Pact is composed of a total of 56 signatories, 24 of which were added earlier this year, and an estimated 250 brands according to a Fashion Pact press release. They are trying to push for more sustainable developments in the fashion industry. It is separated into three areas: to stop climate change, restore biodiversity and protect the oceans. Grinvald said her focus is on oceans but thinks no area stands alone.

It’s one of the biggest industries in the world, but it’s also the most polluted one

“If we want to change our world for the new generation, we need to connect all three together,” she said.

Grinvald uses GTS Group’s plastic injection department to recycle plastic and is building a system following the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s vision for a circular economy by collecting scrap materials from different clothing factories. They use the materials to make footwear. This is seen mainly with their shoe brand Roxan, which is made from 100 percent recycled material. The plastic can be sent back after it outlives its use to be recycled again. Roxan will be sold only in China in 2020.

Grinvald said she is working on educating the brands and factories GTS Group works with.

“Educating other factories is very difficult, but all the supply chains we have, we are now auditing, and they will have to be sustainable,” Grinvald said.

She said educating her team was the hardest part because they were used to using new plastic and new leather.

“The first response I got was, ‘We cannot do it. How do you take a (used) piece of leather and make a pair of shoes with that?’ I think the first step was the most difficult,” Grinvald said.

Now she is proud of her team, who will see scrap items and think of how to implement them into the products. There is not a quality difference between the recycled and none recycled products, and a lot of what is recycled are factory rejects due to a scratch or glue.

“We learned from this to create new products, so you cannot see the rejects… We are not compromising the quality in order to make it recyclable or a sustainable product. We are just using the material over and over again until you cannot use it anymore,” she said.

With her small-medium size company, Anna is pushing for changes in China. In the next five years, they will be 100 percent a factory working only in the circular economy, hoping others will follow suit.