Recently, the Fibersort consortium presented the market ready Fibersort machine, a cutting-edge automated sorting technology that revolutionises textile to textile recycling of post-consumer textiles.

Fibersort, a Near Infrared (NIR) based technology, is able to categorise textiles in 45 different fractions based on their fibre composition and colour.

The accelerating consumption and disposal practices in fashion cause textiles entering the market to reach their end-of-use rapidly. In north-west Europe alone, around 4,700 kilo tonnes of post-consumer textile waste are generated every year, a small portion of the global mountain of textile waste. On average, only 30 per cent of these textiles are collected separately, the rest is lost within household waste. In the best-case scenario, these textiles are sold in the second-hand market both locally and internationally.

The remaining textiles are considered non-rewearable textiles due to their unsuitability for the second-hand market or the market saturation that second-hand clothing is currently facing. Almost all of these textiles are currently being downcycled, incinerated or landfilled. Nevertheless, 24 per cent of the textiles collected have the potential to be recycled into new textiles, but currently are not. These textiles represent 486 kilo tonnes per year, the equivalent to the weight of 50 Eiffel towers!

Automated sorting technologies could enable the industry to turn non-rewearable textiles that currently have no other destination than downcycling, landfill or incineration into valuable feedstock for textile-to-textile recycling. One of these technologies is Fibersort. Over the past years, the technology has been optimised, tested and validated to prepare it for commercialisation. The Fibersort is now able to sort 900 kgs of post-consumer textiles per hour.

The success of the technology is highly dependent on the end-markets that help transform textile waste into new resources. The Fibersort project partners Circle Economy, Valvan Baling Systems, ReShare, Procotex, Worn Again Technologies and Smart Fibersorting have worked with industry stakeholders to better understand these end-markets, assess the potential of the sorted materials and validate the business case of automated sorting as a key enabler of textile-to-textile recycling. Results from these activities are available through project publications and Fibersorted materials are now commercially available for other organisations to test their potential for textile-to-textile recycling.

There are clear opportunities to successfully integrate automated sorting technologies and recycled post-consumer textiles across the value chain. Over the past years, innovation has spurred across this sector of the industry. However, several challenges remain to ensure the long-term implementation of these technologies in relation to financial and technical feasibility as well as the opportunities to scale. Collectors, sorters, recyclers, manufacturers, brands and policymakers have both opportunities and responsibilities to address these challenges.

On March 12, the Fibersort was in action at the Interreg NWE project's Final Symposium. During the day, the project partners hosted a visit to the updated machine, where current performance information was shared, welcoming feedback and insights from the industry to create lasting industry transformation. Parallel sessions were hosted in the afternoon, designed to discuss the experiences with post-consumer textiles so far, as well as the challenges that remain ahead in the spaces of collection, sorting, chemical and mechanical recycling as well as enabling policies and financial incentives to maintain and scale these practices.

The Fibersort project is funded by Interreg North-West Europe (NEW). Interreg NWE is a European Territorial Cooperation Programme funded by the European Commission with the ambition to make the North-West Europe area a key economic player and an attractive place to work and live, with high levels of innovation, sustainability and cohesion.

Published On : 16-03-2020

Source : Fibre 2 Fashion

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