The Taichung delegates visited Prato from 27 February to 3 March 2023 as a rapid follow-up to the study visit of Prato to Taichung that took place just two weeks before. The delegates met Mayor Matteo Biffoni at the city hall, who welcomed them warmly to Prato and expressed his happiness at seeing them again and his high hopes for the cooperation between their cities.
The first day was focused primarily on textile recycling, and the delegates had the opportunity to visit three textile factories that are well-known in Prato for high quality textiles: Manteco, Marini Industrie, and Comistra. The process of recycling wool still takes a considerable amount of manual sorting, as AI programmes that can accurately sort the fabrics by colour and composition have not yet been developed. At both Manteco and Marini, they combine shredded recycled wool to create colours so no additional dying of fabric is needed. All three companies emphasize sustainability in their work in different ways, whether it’s through the high level of recycled fabric produced by Manteco, the green building and recycled plastics used by Marini Industrie, or the emphasis on chemical free water treatment for washing fabrics at Comistra.
The second day of the visit started with an international workshop on textile recycling. Presenters from Prato and Taichung shared about best practices from both cities on how the cities collect disposed textiles and fabrics, how they can be recycled into new yarn, and how they can be transformed into new materials, such as solid recovered fuel. One point that stood out was Professor Leonardo Borsacchi’s statement that the textile industry of Prato is circular and sustainable because it operates within a system that is sustainable, not because of the work of one company or enterprise, but the links between different organizations that are supported by the municipality.
The delegates then paid a visit to GIDA’s headquarters, the industrial wastewater treatment plant for Prato. They were able to learn a little about the recycling process that GIDA uses for water, and this was of particular interest to Taichung, as in Prato, using recycled water is 25% cheaper than using fresh water in the industry, so there is an incentive to use recycled water on top of the added sustainability. However, in Taichung, recycled water is more expensive to use due to the treatment process. A knowledge exchange on the recycling water process was highlighted as a potential point of cooperation between the two cities.
The delegates also visited the control room of the sludge treatment plant, where they were able to see how the sludge is managed. GIDA typically incinerates their sludge on site. This has been another point of interest between the two cities, as Taichung is able to reuse their industrial sludge for educational tools, construction materials, and more, while Prato is unable to reuse it at all due to legislation. The two cities intend on exchanging information regarding the reuse of sludge in Taichung so that GIDA can learn from it.
The delegation wrapped up the study visit with a cultural visit in the morning of the last day. They visited the Museo di Palazzo Pretorio, a collection of traditional and historical art, and the Cathedral where the Sacred Girdle of Santa Maria is kept. They also visited the Museo del Tusseto, the Textile Museum, where they got another chance to see how Prato prioritizes sustainability in its textile industry. In the afternoon, the delegates visited the Pecci Museum, a contemporary art centre devoted to exhibiting art produced in the past few decades.
Taichung and Prato concluded the study visit with a Cooperation Action Plan session, where they finalized their intended actions and agreed on the next steps to extend their cooperation beyond the scope of the ICP-AGIR project. With long-lasting actions like a co-developed board game, knowledge exchange, and intention to sign an MOU, we expect that Prato and Taichung will remain close partners in the years to come.
Megan Chow is a Program Officer at CityNet, where she manages partners, publications, and communications. She currently also serves as the Country Coordinator for the EU IURC and ICP-AGIR programmes. Prior to joining CityNet, she worked at Yonsei University in the admissions office, where she organized events and spearheaded external communication. Megan obtained a Master of Global Affairs and Policy from Yonsei University, and graduated from the University of British Columbia for her BA with a double major in Psychology and Korean Studies.