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Sustainability as a given. Sharing as a mission.

Caroline Zöller

Published on 30.06.2020

Every year billions of new T-shirts are produced while, at the same time, a truckload of clothing finishes up in landfill every single second. The shirt manufacturer Teemill, based on the Isle of Wight in Great Britain, firmly believes that simply slowing the fast fashion industry down will not be enough to fix things.

Teemill’s goal is to change the way the textile industry works long-term. The British company exclusively produces T-shirts made of bio-cotton which are manufactured in its own Indian plant. All shirts are GOTS certified, manufactured using renewable energy and supplied in plastic-free packaging. In addition, Teemill’s business model is based on the circular flow economy. Each Teemill T-shirt includes a label with a return code. The old T-shirts that are returned to the company are then made into new garments.

The Teemill supply chain also uses renewable energy. The company’s electricity is generated by its own solar farm, while the factory in India owns two wind farms. Modern machine-to-machine communication helps save energy still further. The technology only switches machinery on, for example, when it its actually needed.

Two locations and print-on-demand production

All Teemill shirts are manufactured centrally at a location in India. The textiles are spun there from the company’s own bio-cotton before being dyed, woven and tailored at the same site. This vertical integration approach cuts costs. Lean processing means that Teemill can invest more in modern facilities to guarantee environmentally sound production in consistent quality. The T-shirts are then finished using silk screen or digital printing at the plant in England. Here too, Teemill is constantly working on improving processing to ensure an efficient interplay of printing technology, environment-friendly inks, software, machinery and automation technology. Print on demand, i.e. real-time production, means that there is no overproduction. Products are only made to order.

Customers receive the finished product in a tear and plastic-free, splash-resistant paper mailer bag. Teemill delivers large orders in cardboard boxes secured using paper-based tape. The company is also continually trying to optimise its shipping processes and eliminate waste here. Teemill is currently creating new stickers from recycled organic cotton waste from T-shirt production, for example.

High tech cuts costs

The efficiency and productivity gains that Teemill achieves through its technology helps cover the added cost of manufacture that using sustainable materials involves. The company is also continually investing in its team of employees. On the Isle of Wight, the T-shirt manufacturer has grown to become a medium-sized business and managed to get many young people into fulltime employment through its vocational training programmes.

Changing things together through sharing

To make sure the textile industry really does become more sustainable, Teemill is sharing its know-how and technology with other companies free of charge. Startups, charity organisations and anyone who wishes to get into the T-shirt business receive support in how to implement their own print-on-demand online shops. Teemill passes on 100% of the profits that these companies generate. In addition, it also provides detailed business and marketing assistance for people just starting out in the marketplace. Everything is explained on Teemill’s in-house Youtube channel, from the business plan right through to choosing the right printing technology.

One of Teemill’s medium-term goals is to establish a major sustainability platform for circular-economy T-shirt production based its business model of sharing. The intention is to improve the processes employed, increase awareness of the textile industry and also help change consumer attitudes towards consumption. Teemill welcomes anybody who wishes to get involved and invites them to participate in the whole story.

Images: Teemill