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Pressrelease | 2017-03-28

New technology may revolutionize textile recycling

Automatic rather than manual sorting provides new opportunities for increased textile recycling. In a unique pilot plant in Avesta, a thirty-metre machine uses optical sensors to sort textiles based on their fibre content.

– Automated sorting makes it possible to handle large textile flows and simultaneously produce textile fractions better suited to different recycling processes than is the case with the present manual sorting, says Maria Elander, Project Manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

Today, textiles for reuse and recycling are sorted manually. A high degree of precision is required to effectively sort clothes and other fabrics based on various types of fibres, such as cotton, wool, viscose, polyester and acrylic. The automated sorting technology tested here is based on optical sensors that detect different materials – a similar technology to that used to sort packages.

The potential for increasing textile recycling is enormous. Today, only about 5 per cent of the over
120 000 tonnes of new textiles put on the Swedish market every year is recycled.

The textile sorting innovation platform now under development is intended to leverage a 45 000 tonnes textile recycling sorting capacity. In total eleven different companies and organizations in the textile industry are involved in the project, which is led by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.

The project has collected 700 tonnes of used textiles at recycling centres in Stockholm and Malmö. After a manual pre-sorting of clothing and domestic textiles that can be reused, the textile stream is fed into the pilot plant in Avesta. Over a period of one year, the technology will be tested and optimized to suit to the needs of potential customers. Sorted textiles will be analysed for purity and the presence of chemical substances.

– The idea is to create a sorting solution tailored to the needs of textile recyclers and the garment trade that will provide the missing link between textile collection and high-quality recycling, says Maria Elander.

For more information, please contact:
Maria Elander, maria.elander@ivl.se, tel. +46 (0)10-788 66 56

SIPTex, the Swedish Innovation Platform for Textile Sorting, is financed by Vinnova and is a project within the Challenge Driven Innovation. It is led by IVL, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, in collaboration with a wide consortium of research institutes, authorities and players from different parts of the textile value chain – Gina Tricot, H & M, Human Bridge, Malmö, Stockholm Water and Waste, Sysav, ReturTex, Swerea IVF, the Swedish Chemicals Agency and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.

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