A group of Finnish organizations are banding together to transform old cotton garments, particularly those unsuitable for reuse, into new fibers for the textile industry. Led by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, which developed a way to dissolve cellulose in clothing, the “Circular Economy of Textiles” project—or TEKI for short—is on track to deliver an entire clothing line from the reclaimed material by the end of 2016. Although a similar process has been used to make viscose fiber for decades, VTT claims its production technique is environmentally friendlier because it doesn’t use carbon disulphide, according to senior scientist Pirjo Heikkilä. Compared with virgin cotton, the new process slashes water use by more than 70 percent and carbon emissions by up to 50 percent, Heikkilä adds.
Selvage waste from Pure Waste Textiles
CLOSING THE LOOP
TEKI’s pilot phase began in May, when the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre collected and pre-processed cotton castoffs that could it could neither reuse as clothing nor repurpose as material for recycled products.
Suez Environnement, which specializes in waste recovery, then crushed and ground the material for VTT to turn into a cellulose carbamate solution.
Taking place in a factory in Valkeakoski, October’s cellulose wet-spinning phase will mark the first time that cellulose solution from recycled materials is wet-spun on an industrial scale, Heikkilä says. From there, the processed fibers will head over to Helsinki, where Pure Waste Textiles will turn them into yarn and, eventually, into knitted fabric.
Fashion label Seppälä is on board to design and produce a range of prototypes, as well as manufacture a commercial clothing line once the pilot phase of the project is complete.
For packaging, TEKI is turning to RePack, a “sustainable delivery alternative” that rewards consumers who return their shipping parcels for reuse. As a bonus, customers will be able to use the packaging to send any unwanted textiles to the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre for recycling.