What have I learnt from Turkey’s textile recycling ecosystem?

Tulin Dzhengiz (Cengiz)
22 min readDec 8, 2021

About 6 months ago, I started fieldwork to explore the Turkish textile recycling ecosystem. In this scope, I have interviewed more than 50 professionals, mostly incumbent players of this ecosystem, NGO leaders, consultants, academics and many other players. In many ways, this research was eye-opening. So, in this Medium article, I want to reflect on how my awareness was shaped by this research.

Circular economy awareness in emerging country contexts

I want to start by underlining that in the western world, especially in Europe, people hear more and more about ‘circular economy’. If you join any industry event, you will see that global white goods producers, furniture makers, fast fashion giants, automotive players, they all talk about how they are re-designing their business models based on the principles of the circular economy. As a researcher who also studies these kinds of trends and topics in the western world, naturally, you become biased in time and start assuming that the shift towards the circular economy is affecting everyone in the world in the same way. This assumption, however, is very misleading. Strangely, I have realised that in Turkey, some actors who were actively contributing towards ‘circular economy’ did not necessarily know the term nor were they interested in it that much. When I spoke with many SME managers and owners who pioneered textile recycling in a region, they were not trying to greenwash me with the term ‘circular’ at all… On the contrary, one of…