Effective in 2016, the European Union ban on placing organic waste at landfills is fast approaching. In response, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a cellulose dissolution technique that turns old, worn-out cotton clothing into new fibers for the textile industry.
Based on this process, VTT has teamed up with Ethica Ltd. to bring together a group of Finnish organizations to carry out the Circular Economy of Textiles (TEKI) project, aimed at piloting and modeling a closed-loop ecosystem in line with the principles of the circular economy, which will form the basis of a new way to make industrial use of textile waste that cannot be reused.
Cellulose fiber can be produced using the same technique and equipment as has been used to make viscose fiber for decades, but the new production technique is more environmentally friendly, as no carbon disulphide is needed in the dissolution process. Compared to virgin cotton, the new technique also reduces the water footprint by more than 70 percent and the carbon footprint by 40–50 percent.
The wet-spinning phase of the project is due to begin in a month in a factory in Valkeakoski that has not been in use for a couple of years. This is the first time that cellulose solution made from recycled materials is being wet-spun in an industrial scale, says Pirjo Heikkilä, VTT’s senior scientist who is responsible for coordinating the TEKI project. The fiber will be used to make new knitted fabrics, and the first clothing line made of the recycled fibers will be out toward the end of 2016.