Circular beanies: closing the circle at Nyenrode

Impact case of the month

November 21 2022

Anyone who thought that Nyenrode Business University focuses purely on education and research is wrong; in fact, the university also sells circular beanies made of recycled cotton from worn clothing. By investing in a student idea, the university is doing its part to make the textile industry more sustainable. 

The international textile industry is changing rapidly. And it needs to, because working conditions of textile workers and the impact on the environment have been topics of discussion for years. And as a result, a circular business model becomes more and more of a necessity, aiming at making safe, sustainable, and recyclable textile products and using them as long as possible through repair, reuse, and recycling.

Circular Cotton

An example of this can be found close to home, on the Nyenrode Business University campus in Breukelen. This is where Milah Wouters, Lise Hordijk and Danielle Schouten got the idea during their Sustainable Entrepreneurship master class to start the Circular Cotton initiative, and together with Anita de Wit and Esther Verhoef, to make beanies that consist of at least 40% circular cotton. That is, 40% recycled cotton from consumer worn clothing. Nyenrode supported their initiative by buying 200 beanies as a business gift, and with the proceeds the initiators can investigate whether it is possible to produce beanies that consist of 50% or 60% circular cotton.


A study is currently underway to see if the percentage of recycled cotton can be increased while maintaining quality of strength of the fabric. This includes looking at how used clothes from consumers in particular could be used for this purpose, as opposed to the usual cutting waste from the factory floor. The idea is to adjust the ratio of 40% post-consumer recycled cotton, 40% cotton, and 20% Tencel; Circular Cotton wants to make beanies from at least 50% recycled post-consumer cotton and mixed with only Tencel. Using Tencel avoids the high use of water and application of pesticides in cotton production. In practice, this still seems easier said than done, in part because machines can break down faster and even catch fire, and because there are few - if any - parties that already have experience with this innovative production process. But with Nyenrode’s help, Circular Cotton is paving the way like a true pioneer, and as a result, the circle is complete: in the Nyenrode shop, you can now find a product that was once an idea that originated in the lecture halls of Nyenrode.

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Michael Brussel, Purchasing and Contract Management at Nyenrode Business University, and Sustainable Business and Stewardship professor André Nijhof wrote an impact case on the development of these circular beanies, together with the initiators Milah Wouters, Lise Hordijk, Danielle Schouten, Anita de Wit, and Esther Verhoeff.


Want to order a beanie? Go to our webshop.

An impact case includes a research portfolio around a central theme, focusing on the reach and impact of that research. The impact cases are easy to read for a broad audience, they demonstrate how Nyenrode is strengthening its connection to practice and how faculty members are finding practical solutions to relevant and current challenges in practice.

The impact cases are divided into the categories Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Stewardship, and Educational Innovation.

All cases can be found here.

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