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Swedish innovation makes it possible to recycle polyester and cotton blends to enable circular flows in the fashion and textile industry
The most common blending has not been possible to recycle on an industrial scale. Until now.
Swedish forestry cooperative Södra is owned by 52 000 forest owners and annually produces and sells around 170 000 pulp mill to the textile industry. Their new groundbreaking method separates cotton and polyester, both from pre- and post-consumer waste.
— We are now redrawing the map for the fashion and textile industry by offering circular flows of textile fibres. A sweater can now become a sweater again. This will create added value for our customers, and especially the fashion industry. It’s big for us and equally big for the emerging circular bioeconomy, says Johannes Bogren, President of Södra Cell Bioproducts.
— Only a negligible proportion of the global production of clothing and textiles is recycled today. Virtually everything is sent to landfill or incineration. But Swedish innovation and a willingness to help mitigate climate change can now influence the game at a global level, says Lars Idermark, President and CEO of Södra.
— We collect recycled cotton and mix it with our dissolving pulp mill, adds Project Manager Helena Claesson.
— For now, we keep it to ourselves.
How big is the issue with polycotton mixes in the industry today?
— It is the biggest blending mix and can’t be recycled until now. We hope that our process will help the textile industry becoming circular, says Claesson.
The product is already available on the market. During the autumn, Södra’s pulp mill at Mörrum, Sweden produced pulp by adding 20 tonnes of used textiles. Swedish laundry and textile service provider Berendsen delivered the test material used in the pilot project comprising end-of-life sheets, towels, tablecloths and bathrobes from hospitals and hotels.
What’s your next step?
— We are now seeking companies with high sustainability ambitions that would like to partner with us in the delivery of textiles. We will be able to accept viscose and lyocell in addition to polycotton blends.
At present, Södra can only accept white textiles, but the aim is to also find a decolouring solution.
— And we also work on creating a line of rest products from the polyester, says Claesson.
Production will commence at a low rate of 30 tonnes this year, but the long-term target is to add 25,000 tonnes of textiles to the company’s pulp production.
Read more: oncemore.sodra.com
SödraHelena Claessonrecycled polycottonLars IdermarkJohannes Bogren