Sorted textile ready to be delivered to recyclers. Photo: Andreas Offesson.
Textile waste becomes unique recycling products
The Siptex facility in Malmö that sorts textile waste by colour and fibre composition is the first of its kind in the world. The next step in its development is now anticipated as the plant starts to deliver textile fractions to recyclers. The circular textile raw material that has been named ReFab leverages quality-assured products, adapted to different recycling processes.
– That mixed textile waste after sorting can now go on to become new textiles is extremely positive from a resource and sustainability perspective. This means that we can avoid new production by utilizing textiles already on the market to keep textile fibres in the cycle for as long as possible, says Erik Perzon, textile expert at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
Every year in the EU, we discard over four million tonnes of clothing and other textiles. Most of this comes from household waste flows and is incinerated, only a few per cent are recycled as new textiles. Until now the bottleneck has been the sorting facilities where today’s manual handling of textile waste means that it is difficult to satisfy the requirements set by recyclers.
– Large-scale textile recycling requires consistent quality and high throughput volumes. This is what automatic sorting can deliver, says Erik Perzon.
Siptex is an acronym for “Swedish Innovation Platform for Textile sorting” and is intended to be the link currently missing between collected textile waste and high-quality fibre-to-fibre recycling. The project is led by IVL and carried out together with a broad consortium of Swedish fashion and furniture companies, authorities, and actors across the textile value chain. Support from Vinnova and investments by the waste-to-energy company Sysav, has meant that this unique textile sorting plant could be built in Malmö last year.
Transformed into new raw material
The full-scale Siptex plant has now started operations and has commenced delivery of material to recyclers. Using near-infrared light, the plant sorts mixed textile waste into bales of exact fibre composition. These bales can then be sent on for various forms of high-quality recycling, both chemical and mechanical.
– The plant can sort practically any type of fibre. We have initially focused on cotton, polyester, acrylic and wool, but at a later stage more products will be added to our range. Our goal has been to find a market for all types of fibre in the post-consumer waste flow, says Stefan Poldrugac, business developer at Sysav.
The new products have been named ReFab® - Renewable Fabulous Fabric. They open new opportunities for textile recycling. An increasing environmental awareness across the fashion industry has increased the demand for recycled textiles, but until now it has been difficult for prospective buyers to get hold of suitable raw materials.
The textile flow that arrives at the facility in Malmö is made up of items that cannot be reused. Sorted textiles that cannot be sold on the second-hand market, damaged garments, and industrial textile waste.
When it comes fully online, the Siptex plant will have the capacity to sort 24,000 tonnes of textiles per year, which corresponds to approximately 30 per cent of textiles discarded in Sweden during the same period.
– The pandemic affected collection in 2020, but things have taken a turn for the better. We look forward to an increased collection rate among municipalities that will enable us to close textile chains within Sweden, says Stefan Poldrugac.
Siptex is the first facility of its kind, but Erik Perzon hopes there will be more to come in the future. This is necessary if we are to deal with textile waste flows and turn them into something positive.
– This plant can be said to replace a cotton field in Bangladesh or a polyester factory in China. It is not only a solution to a waste problem, but also a way to cut back on new production and this is the biggest benefit from an environmental perspective, he says.
For more information, please contact:
Erik Perzon, firstname.lastname@example.org, +46 (0)10-788 65 70
Siptex is an acronym of Swedish Innovation Platform for Textile sorting. It is funded by Vinnova and is a so-called stage 3 project within the Challenge-driven innovation programme. This research project is led by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and is carried out together with several Swedish textile and fashion companies, research institutes and authorities, including H&M, Ikea, Kappahl, Stadium, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Re: newcell and Myrorna. The sorting facility in Malmö is owned and operated by Sysav, a waste-to-energy company in southern Sweden.