Textile Recycling: Companies Pioneering in Recycling Technologies

post-consumer textile waste and recycling

The previous article described a lot about what the Textile Recycling is along with its need of the hour, but it was intended to focus out the bottleneck in recycling caused by technological limitations. This article will continue from the various companies along with their technologies who are trying to look beyond this current bottleneck and are in the process of development of recycling technologies to make it more accessible to the industry.

Different Types of Textile Wastes

Textile wastes are of two types based on the place of origin, post-industry wastes and post-consumer wastes.

Post-industry textile wastes are the wastes which are generated along with the manufacturing of finished items such as apparel, home furnishing etc. these are considered among the purest form of waste as with a proper waste management system these can be made contamination-free. This would mean that the textile waste would be free of foreign textile material, papers, tapes, chemicals, oils and dirt etc. Also, this waste can be sorted fabric wise thus needing less time for sorting and segregation before recycling. With such an advantage, it is the most favourite among the recyclers and most often these recyclers are in direct contact with waste disposal vendors of different factories.

Post-consumer textile wastes are the wastes which are generated after the useful life of the finished textile products. These consists of used garments, fabric sheets, home furnishing etc. Opposite to the above, these waste most often becomes a nightmare to recycle as they are filled with contaminants and have to be processes rigorously to get free of them which ultimately adds cost. There is also a lack of proper waste collection system around the world which would collect the waste, sort it at the fibre level and deliver to proclaimed recyclers.


Companies Pioneering in Recycling Technologies

The textile recycling technology thus revolves around the collection of these waste which forms the raw material for the recycled products. The companies pioneering in this recycling technologies are as follows:
  1. Worn Again Technologies
  2. Birla Cellulose
  3. Lenzing
  4. PurFi
  5. Mud Jeans
  6. Pure waste Textiles
  7. HKRITA
  8. Shreeji Cotfab

Worn Again:
Worn Again Technologies, a London-based start-up firm, is trying for the commercialization of a brand new polymer recycling technology. Its patented method is the result of six years of R&D work. The Worn Again process can separate, decontaminate and extract polyester polymers and cellulose (from cotton) from non-reusable textiles, as well as plastic bottles and packaging, to go back into new products as part of a repeatable process. The main output materials are circular PET pellets and cellulosic pulp. Also, they are one of the first chemical recycling technology companies to be Cradle to Cradle certified. With such immense potential 

Birla Cellulose: 
Birla Cellulose a leading Viscose Staple Fibre (VSF) has come up with their latest chemical recycling technology, which can convert cellulosic waste of cotton to viscose with little to none change in properties of the viscose. This viscose is marketed under the name Liva Reviva and they have been successful in commercializing the product. The fibre made is a blend of 80% wood pulp & 20% pre-consumer fabric waste and is backed by blockchain technology for maximum transparency and traceability.

Lenzing
Lenzing has been at the forefront for manufacturing man-made cellulosic fibers globally. In 2017 LENZING(tm) launched chemical recycling technology, they can convert cellulosic waste of cotton from post-industrial and Post-consumer waste to lyocell with little to none change in properties of the Lyocell. This Lyocell is marketed under the name Refibra and they have been able to commercialize this technology with brands Levis, Patagonia, Reformation, Eileen Fisher, Banana Republic - Gap, Closed, Country Road and more.  Additionally REFIBRA(tm) Lyocell has a fiber identification for transparency and traceability. 

PurFi: 
PurFi, a technology company in association with Concordia Textiles has patented in making virgin quality products from post-industry fabric waste. They are using the best of both mechanical and chemical recycling for recycling of the waste. They will be initiating a pilot production line in 2020. Their technology is based in recycling poly-cotton blends by separating the cotton and polyester chemically followed by a mechanical process to extract the fibres.

Mud Jeans: 
Mud Jeans is all about high-quality sustainable jeans. Their current supply-chain doesn’t end at the product being sold to the consumer but it takes back the jeans, shred back to fibres, spin yarn out of it, dye it and use it for making jeans to be again sold. This is one of the few handful companies who are recycling post-consumer fabric waste. They have made this possible by controlling the product to be recycled making the recycling process much easier. With shredding involved, they are relying on quality mechanical recycling process which is going to be described in details in the next article.

Pure waste Textiles: 
It is a t-shirt manufacturing company primarily dedicated to recycled cotton from already returned t-shirts to make quality fabrics for again making t-shirts out of them. The process is similar to that of Mud Jeans but with different fabric. Their product range consists of 100% cotton t-shirts which are most suitable for mechanical recycling and they take in products sold by them only thus having control on the raw material.

HKRITA: 
Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel in association with big retail brands such as H&M have developed a mechanical garment to garment recycling system that acts as a mini production line which can process post-consumer garments into sanitized recycle garments. The system does not need water, no dyeing needed and the entire system can fit into a 40-foot transport container. The best part of this system is that the output is a whole garment which is done with a whole garment knitting machine. Till now the technology has only been able to recycle sweater fabric as they are much loosely knitted as for denser fabric the efficiency of the process drastically reduces. 

Image: HKRITA Recycling machinery 

Shreeji Cotfab: 
It is a mechanical recycling company dedicated to the selling of recycled yarns for both knitting and weaving. Placed in India, they collect factory waste from garment manufacturers from Vietnam, Indonesia, and other middle eastern countries to process recycled yarn out of them. Their process of textile recycling consists of shredding the fabric to extract out the fibres which are then mixed with a suitable percentage of virgin fibres so that the yarns made are of the much finer count. The yarns made is most suitable for knitting but for woven fabric, these yarns can only be used in the weft as the tensile strength is not enough to be used for warp. Use of these yarns can drastically reduce the price of the fabric made and more details about the process will be discussed in the upcoming article.

There are various other companies similar to Shreeji Cotfab who are recycling textile waste but not all of them can manufacture apparel grade yarn. Since they can act as a recycling vendor any apparel manufacturer wishing to recycle their cutting waste can use this as a stepping stone.

Conclusion:

The above companies represent only a few from the bunch of such upcoming companies dedicated to textile recycling. Unlike the past recyclers, they are not downgrading the textile materials in the recycling process. Also even if an apparel manufacturer does not need for using recycled products, they can always sell the textile waste to these recyclers who can pay a much higher price for the waste benefiting both the parties.

With such companies working and developing on various textile recycling processes we sure can hope for a better future where our dependence on virgin fibres will drastically decrease achieving a new milestone towards sustainability.


References:

https://www.garment2garment.com/
https://www.indiantextilemagazine.in/corporate-news/lenzing-refibra-a-breakthrough-technology-in-recycling-textiles/
https://amimagazine.global/intellectual-capitals/news/hong-kong-at-the-cutting-edge-of-textile-technology/

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