Textile waste is a problem in Europe. Out of almost 7.5 million tons of textiles discarded every year, only 30-35% are collected separately – and of that quantity, only 15-20% are sorted by medium and larger sorting facilities within the EU. After sorting, 60% still qualify as wearable clothes, however after a second or third collection-loop, all of the textiles become non-wearable sooner or later. For this reason, fiber-to-fiber recycling is becoming increasingly important to preserve the valuable resources.
The textile recycling value chain is not yet mature, but it is on the verge of a turning point, as different fiber-recycling technologies are deployed on a large scale. If successful, the textile recycling industry could reach a recycling rate of 18-26% of gross textile waste in 2030. This would create economic, social and environmental value that could total between €3.5 billion and €4.5 billion in 2030.
Today, there is a sorting gap to achieve a circular economy for textiles in Europe. To feed this new circular value chain, a significant sorting-capacity increase is needed with 150-250 sorting and recycling facilities nearby, as assessed by a recent study.
There is also a technology and capacity gap in sorting for reuse and recycling to ensure that high quality raw materials from non-wearable textile waste can be made available on a large scale. Therefore, the “Transform Textile Waste into Feedstock” project was initiated by Texaid Textilverwertungs-AG, Schattdorf/Switzerland, within the ReHubs initiative together with well-known stakeholders of the textile value chain.
The major outcome of this project will be a sorting-factory blueprint fulfilling the requirements to the future needs of fiber-to-fiber recycling, enabling the future of more sustainable textiles by using recycled fibers. Texaid, who is leading the project, is committed to build and operate scalable sorting facilities across Europe, the first with a capacity of 50,000 tons by the end of 2024.
This project should enable real scalable sorting in a sense of sorting 4.0. In order to reach that target, Texaid will start with a technology assessment, followed by a demo pant before going to full scale by the end of next year. Renowned companies such as Concordia, CuRe Technology, Decathlon, Inditex, Indorama Ventures, L’Atelier des Matières, Lenzing, Marchi & Fildi, PurFi, Södra, Worn Again and others are taking part in the project to jointly evaluate technologies and the business case for scaled sorting for reuse and recycling. ITA Academy GmbH (in cooperation with RWTH Aachen University) together with Cetia, a company that provides solutions to transform textile and leather articles into sources of material ready for recycling, has been commissioned for the assessment of technologies. The outcome will be an innovative sorting system 4.0, building on cross-functional technologies with digitalization and automation are at the heart.