Living Sustainably

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Living Sustainably

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Living Sustainably

The products and services that Coats provides have to be sustainable in themselves but they can also contribute actively to making customers’ products more sustainable. Coats is working actively with customers on the recycled and circular projects of the future.


Leader's Voice

“While originally Coats’ business was built on cotton as a raw material, for many years now our main raw materials have been plastics like polyester. Our goal for years has been to produce threads that can be used in seams that last at least until the end of a garment’s life, and often considerably beyond that. Polyester is an ideal material for this as the combination of strength and elasticity allows for high speed sewing and long seam life. However, we are fully aware that there are downsides to the use of polyester, especially if it cannot be recovered and recycled.

Our aim is to develop a range of products that allows our customers to design garments with a clear end-of-life strategy built into them. In many cases this will entail continuing to use polyester threads (though recycled rather than virgin material) for garments made using polyester fabric. However, it also requires us to develop threads that can be used with garments made from other materials, especially cotton. We are already working with multiple partners across the supply chain to meet these challenges.”

Adrian Elliott
President, Apparel and Footwear

Recycled Product Strategy

Currently most of our products are made from virgin, oil-derived polymers. Our target it to transition 100% of our premium polyester products to recycled raw material by 2024.

This is the first stage of a journey that will see us progressively moving more of our products to recycled materials, with our eventual goal being that the materials are coming from textile end-of-life waste.

By the end of 2020 13% of our premium polyester sales were from recycled material.

Waste Strategy

Waste is generated in various ways during textile processing, and nearly 70% of it is reused internally or recycled externally.

Our target is to reduce the waste we generate, as a percentage of all materials used, by 25%. The first stage is to ensure that we have comprehensive global reporting and analysis of waste and we have been focussing on this in 2020 with a new online global reporting app that makes the capture of global data on multiple categories of waste easier. Using this new transparency, by the end of 2020 we had reduced our waste percentage by 8% compared to 2018 and we expect to see this continue to improve in 2021.

Reduce our waste by 25% by 2022

Starting in 2019 we decided to adopt the European Union’s Waste Framework Directive and the European Waste Catalogue as the basis for waste management across Coats. During 2020 we have refined the European Waste Catalogue into a Coats Waste Catalogue that contains 35 different waste categories covering every material item that exists in a Coats unit that is not part of a commercial product. The full introduction of the Coats Waste Catalogue has required us to restate waste statistics back to 2018 and to recalculate our target on this basis.

During 2020 we produced a total of 17.6 thousand tonnes of waste. This compared to 25.4 thousand tonnes in 2019. While the absolute volume of waste has obviously been impacted by the reduction in production during the year, the waste percentage has improved significantly in the year, reducing from 16% in 2019 to 14% in 2020. In 2020 23% of our waste generated was hazardous, down from 30% in 2018. Nearly 85% of the hazardous waste is sludge from effluent treatment plants.

A breakdown of our waste shows that only about 20% of the waste material on our sites is directly related to our products, with other high volume categories including paper and cardboard packaging (18%), sludge (21%) and plastic packaging (13%). Of the waste generated, 66% is recycled internally or reused externally. The bulk of the remainder currently goes to landfill, although 47% of our units have successfully moved away from any use of landfill for waste disposal.

All premium quality polyester threads to be recycled by 2024

Premium quality recycled polyester chip supply is currently very limited. Existing recycling technology means that the only source of material we can use comes from recycled PET bottles that have been processed through rigorously controlled sorting processes. Even if the collection rate increases and the bottle sorting and recycling systems improve there will never be an adequate supply from this source on its own.

Chemical recycling of textile materials to produce new high quality textiles is the likely solution, but the technology for this is still at a pilot plant stage of development. Our objective is to strengthen our links directly to the chip producers so that we can work closely with them on increasing the supply while also ensuring that we get access to material while there are shortages.

In 2020 13% of our premium polyester threads were made from recycled material, compared to 1.5% in 2019.

Using only what is needed

During 2020 we used 115 thousand tonnes of direct raw materials in our products. The bulk of this material is the fibres we use to make our threads. 95% of our products are made from plastics, principally polyester, and 5% is from cotton. All of our plastic products are oil-based and currently most of them are from virgin sources, but as noted earlier we are rapidly moving to recycled materials. While we are aware of the progress made in developing bioplastics, we are concerned about the environmental and social impact of allocating more land to textile fibre production and believe that the future opportunity lies in textile to textile recycling, as described below.

We are very conscious of the social and environmental risks involved with the small proportion of cotton fibre we use and are supportive of the global collaborations that are focused on managing these risks, including the Better Cotton Initiative. We have long had a ban on sourcing cotton grown in high risk areas.

We have a very small amount of animal-based products in our range. This is limited to wool based products that make up less than 0.01% of our sales, and we take care to ensure that this material is sourced responsibly. We have a specific Animal Welfare Policy to cover this.

Our product specifications across all of our ranges are established to ensure that the products are fit for purpose and not overengineered for the end use. This means that we do not produce or sell more material than that which is required by our customers. We also focus on ensuring that indirect material usage is minimised. This is especially important in the area of packaging as both the materials we buy and the products we sell require packaging to protect them during transport and storage. We address this upstream with our material suppliers and downstream with our customers to work collaboratively to find ways to minimise packaging and, where it is still necessary, ensure that it can be reused or recycled. For example, recently we completed a project with a fibre supplier in the US which replaced virgin Styrofoam packaging, which cannot easily be recycled, with cardboard which is already recycled and can easily be recycled again. We initiated in 2019 a project in Sri Lanka to explore removing plastic bags on our cones. Cone bags are necessary because in many customer locations dust contamination is a problem. Working closely with customers we found that a lot of dark shades can be sent without bags as the risk of dust soiling the thread is minimal. Our next step is to see if we can replace all the remaining bags that continue to be necessary with a compostable bag. We had planned to trial this early in 2020, but because of the disruption caused by the pandemic the project had to be delayed and is now underway again. Another area of focus is the plastic cones that the thread is wound on. We have two approaches here depending on the logistics challenges faced. Where return of empty cones is possible then our approach is to use cones that are robust and can be used repeatedly or recycled if they are damaged. Where recovering cones after use is not possible then we engineer the cones to use as little material as possible.

Towards circularity

The majority of our products are made from synthetic oil-based polymers. We recognise that these resources are finite. Clearly, it is vital that we use these materials in the most efficient way possible, looking at both reducing and reusing our waste, as well as continuously assessing alternative raw materials that might be more sustainable solutions.

At Coats, we believe that considering the large amount of plastics used in the textile industry, the best strategic direction for the industry is to replace virgin plastics with recycled ones. At the moment, the limited amount of recycled material we use comes from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) beverage bottles. This is a good short-term approach; however, we are limited by the amount of PET bottle material available on the market as this material is in high demand across different industries. We expect that availability of this material is unlikely to grow much beyond the current level, which accounts for about 15% of global textile feedstock.

Given this, it makes sense for us to explore other options and to work with others to develop technologies that would enable circular reprocessing of plastic textile products at the end of life back into new textiles, this is not yet viable on an industrial scale, but, many companies like us are working on tackling this challenge.

At Coats, we will continue to develop our high-quality recycled polyester from PET bottles and aim to meet our 2024 target to have all our premium polyester threads made with 100% recycled material. In 2020, 13%1.5% of our premium polyester sales were from recycled material (1.5% in 2019).

Expanding Our Recycled Range

Having launched our first Ecoverde recycled polyester threads at the start of 2019 with a small range of 100% polyester corespun and texturised threads, we have significantly expanded the range during 2020. This now includes a broader range of 100% polyester corespun thread sizes which means that all garment segments can find the threads that they need. We have also expanded the range of substrates to include polyester-cotton corespun, microfilament texturised and embroidery threads. The range will continue to expand in 2021, and we are also extending the availability of recycled material into our non-premium thread offering.

Availability of high quality recycled polymers will continue to be the biggest challenge as we work towards our ambitious target of 100% recycled premium products by 2024. Our products require the highest level of material performance and much of the recycled material available is not suitable for our use. We have continued to develop and qualify new sources of supply during 2020. In the longer term we believe that more circular material flows is the best solution and this is explored on pages 36 and 37. In 2020 the percentage of our premium products made from recycled polyester was 13%, a significant increase from 2% in 2019.

Read more case studies

Living Sustainably
Living Sustainably: Protecting our planet
Indicator Unit 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2018
2019 2019

% premium polyester sales from recycled material


- - - - - - 2% - 13%

Total waste generated2


- - - - 12,232 24,092 12,450 25,401 17,610

Hazardous waste generated3


- - - - - 7,150 - 8,171 4.031

% total material waste


- - - - 9% 15% 9% 16% 14%

Reused or recycled waste

% of waste

- - - - 73% 73% 71% 69% 66%

% units sending zero waste to landfill


- - - - - - 67% 65% 47%

Total materials purchased by Coats


132,694 136,249 146,394 138,589 136,705 139,399 142,398 144,802 115,302

Process chemicals used


- - - - - 18,213 - 16,034 13,820

Packaging materials used


- - - - - 27,062 - 24,077 22,486

Materials used in Coats products


87,002 90,444 95,261 93,268 91,431 94,125 102,287 104,691 78,996

Textile fibres used in Coats products


- - - - - 89,329 - 99,880 74,942

Dyes and chemicals used in Coats products


- - - - - 4,796 - 4,811 4,054

1Where possible 2018 and 2019 are restated to include HP Pharr which was purchased in January 2020. This is to provide a like for like comparison.

2With the completion of the Coats Waste Catalogue additional waste elements have been added to the waste total, leading to a restatement of 2018 and 2019 numbers (in addition to the inclusion of HP Pharr).

3Hazardous waste includes all of the following categories: dyes, chemicals, solid and aqueous sludge, fuels, oils, toner cartridges, hazardous packaging waste, hazardous cleaning cloths, items containing CFCs, HCFCs & HFCs, batteries, inorganic waste, organic waste, laboratory waste, medical waste, construction materials containing asbestos, fluorescent tubes, paints, inks, adhesives, resins and electrical and electronic equipment.

For more information on our historical performance download our full data disclosure.