An automated textile sorting plant is to be built in Malmö. IVL’s Maria Elander is project manager. Photo: Anette Andersson
IVL has been given green light for a collaborative initiative to establish the world's first industrial scale automated textile sorting plant. Vinnova is to invest SEK 22 million in the project that will develop innovative solutions to achieve Agenda 2030 sustainability goals. The facility will be built in Malmö and is projected to go online next summer.
– The textile sector has one of the biggest global environmental impacts. Automated textile sorting is one of the keys needed to create effective textile flows and a circular cycle, says Maria Elander, Project Manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.
Twenty-one major Swedish textile, fashion and furniture companies, municipalities, charities, research institutes and authorities, led by IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, collaborate in the Swedish Innovation Platform for Textile Sorting project – SIPTex. The plant will be operated by Sysav, which also supports the project financially.
The potential for increasing textile recycling in Sweden is enormous. Currently, only about five percent of the textiles placed on the Swedish market are recycled
140 000 tonnes of new textiles are put on the Swedish market each year. The goal is to gradually increase the sorting capacity of the new plant to reach 16 000 tonnes per year.
– Today, textiles are sorted manually – primarily to identify garments that can be sold for reuse. Automated sorting processes are necessary to sort the increasing volume of textile waste that cannot be reused efficiently so that it can be used for fibre to fibre recycling, says Maria Elander.
The project has previously shown that that automated textile sorting has the potential to provide both a high degree of separation and a high purity in the sorted textile fractions,
Optical sensors are used to sort textiles based on different fibre contents. The technology has been tested and optimized to meet the needs of potential customers in a pilot plant over a one-year period. The results and know-how gained can be utilized when the project is scaled up.
– The idea is to create a sorting solution tailored to the needs of textile recyclers and textile companies to be the link that is currently lacking between textile collection and high-quality recycling. To date, results have been promising. But if a circular economy is to be achieved, everything must work together seamlessly across the entire chain. Active cooperation with both producers, graders and material recyclers is therefore crucial, says Maria Elander.
The project is financed with SEK 22 million under the Vinnova Challenge-driven innovation initiative. Step three of the program involves developing, testing and implementing solutions on a larger scale.
SIPTex, the Swedish Innovation Platform for Textile Sorting, is funded by Vinnova and is a step three project within the Challenge-driven innovation program. It is led by IVL Swedish Environmental Institute and implemented in collaboration with a broad consortium consisting of research institutes, authorities and actors from different parts of the value chain for textiles; Berendsen, Boer Group, Eco TLC, Gina Tricot, HM, Human Bridge, Ica, Ikea, Kappahl, Swedish Chemicals Inspectorate, Cycle and water, Malmö City, Ants, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Re: newcell, Red Cross, Stadium, Stockholm water and wastewater, Sysav and VTT.