After years of development, testing and tireless innovation, the FIBERSORT consortium has received funding support from the European Commission INTERREG NWE programme to optimise, validate and launch the FIBERSORT technology in the global market. The FIBERSORT technology is the world’s first automated sorting technology that is able to sort large volumes of mixed post-consumer textiles based on fiber composition of fabric. Commercialisation of the new technology will bring us one step closer to the closed-loop textiles industry that we so desperately need.
A Unique Technology
In November 2015, the FIBERSORT partner consortium, led by Circle Economy, submitted a phase 1 proposal for the ‘Market demonstration and validation of FIBERSORT technology’. Almost a year later, on Thursday September 15th, the FIBERSORT project was announced as one of the few projects that will be funded by the INTERREG NWE programme for the next three years. With the support of INTERREG in the form of EUR 2 million, the consortium will further optimise the machine and demonstrate and validate this pioneering technology in the market. The project partners will add an additional EUR 1.5 million in funding to the project.
“This funding is an essential to bringing the FIBERSORT technology to the next level.
We are thrilled to be able to bring a key, enabling technology, for a closed loop textile industry, to the market”
– Gwen Cunningham, Lead Circle Textiles, Circle Economy
A Consortium with a Global Mission
The textiles industry is the second most polluting industry in the world and second largest consumer and polluter of water. That is why, over a year ago, Wieland Textiles, Valvan Baling Systems, Worn Again, Salvation Army ReShare and Circle Economy joined forces to address these issues through the Textile Sorting Project.
In North-West Europe alone, 4.650 kt of textiles are discarded every year. That is the equivalent of 700 times the weight of the great pyramid of Giza! Of these discarded textiles a meagre 30% is collected, of which 40% is not suitable for re-wear and currently being downcycled. An initial analysis shows that 50% of the textiles collected ,that are not suitable for re-wear, could be diverted from downcycling into high-value recycling routes as a result of the FIBERSORT technology.
To enable large scale, high-value recycling of textiles, there is a need for an effective technology that can sort textiles based on fiber composition; is capable of dealing with the complexity of the materials in circulation; and is able to process large volumes quickly. The FIBERSORT technology delivers exactly that.
This unique technology is positioned to deliver two things. First, it reduces the need for virgin textile materials by enabling high-value (textile to textile) recycling. This will alleviate the environmental pressure of producing virgin materials. Second, it creates additional market value and business opportunities by developing a business case out of waste that currently would go to landfill, be incinerated or downcycled.
“We started the FIBERSORT after a visit to India, where I witnessed firsthand the incredible amounts of landfill, chemicals and child labour involved in dealing with our waste, I decided we needed to change the way we handle our discarded textiles. The FIBERSORT offers us the solution to find an alternative, high-value destination for our waste”
– Hans Bon, Director, Wieland Textiles
Image: Hans Bon, Denim bleaching in Panipat, India – 2008
The Innovation Partners
Essential to the success of this project is the collaboration between the various stakeholders in the textile value chain. Within the partner consortium, the three value chain stakeholders that are needed to achieve the main objective and outputs are represented:
- Textile collection: Salvation Army ReShare
- Textile sorting: Wieland Textiles
- Textile recycling: Worn Again and Procotex
- FIBERSORT machine engineering: Valvan Baling Systems
- Market Validation: Circle Economy and Smart Fibersorting