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28 October 2015

Textile recycling under way

Within five years it may be possible to start demo-scale commercial materials recovery and textile recycling in Sweden. A new research report issued by Mistra Future Fashion and its others pinpoints existing and possible future techniques of recycling textiles in various ways.

In their report (in Swedish only) on textile recycling, emphasising technical opportunities and challenges (Textilåtervinning – Tekniska möjligheter och utmaningar), the researchers draw the conclusion that materials recovery can yield substantial environmental gains. This presupposes, however, that processes are optimised, that hazardous chemicals found in textiles can be managed and that replacing virgin with recycled fibre is feasible.

To achieve efficient recycling in Sweden, volumes of textile waste collected must increase. But new techniques are also needed. Sorting must, for example, be done down to molecular level, which requires highly advanced technology. This is because high fibre quality is crucial if recycling is to be worthwhile.

The new research study was written by researchers from SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and Swerea IVF who, at the same time, are carrying out research in the Mistra Future Fashion programme, the VINNOVA (Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems) project ‘From Waste into Gold’ and the Swedish Research Council Formas’s SUPFES (‘Substitution in Practice of Prioritised Fluorinated Chemicals to Eliminate Diffuse Sources’) and ‘Chemicals Group’ projects.

Based on information collected and life-cycle analyses performed, the research team have carried out an advanced assessment of future technical and environmental challenges posed by, and the potential for, textile recycling in the future.

Text: Per Westergård, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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