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Industry Talk

Sorting for Circularity

The aim is to create an open digital platform to match textile waste from sorters with recyclers in Europe.

20th May 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Amsterdam


With the aim of creating a stronger link between textile sorters and textile recyclers, and of stimulating a recycling market for unwanted textiles that can generate new revenue streams, Amsterdam-based Fashion for Good is launching the Sorting for Circularity Project.

Bringing together key brands and industry leaders from across Europe, the 18-month project will conduct a comprehensive textile waste analysis using more accurate Near Infrared (NIR) technology, while also mapping the textile capabilities of leading recycling companies. Current textile sorting systems rely heavily on manual input and cannot provide accurate insights given often unreliable and absent clothing labels.

The aim is to create an open digital platform to match textile waste from sorters with recyclers, enabling their alignment and building an infrastructure towards greater circularity in the years to come.

“Traditionally, the sorting industry generates income through the sale of reusable textiles, with the remainder being downcycled, incinerated or landfilled,” explains the organisation’s managing director Katrin Ley. “To achieve a circular system, a new end-market for non-reusable textiles is required, with an infrastructure and digital matching system that can support the activities of sorters and recyclers.”

The project’s brand partners are adidas, Bestseller, and Zalando, with Inditex, Arvind, Birla Cellulose, Levi Strauss, Otto and PVH Corp participating as part of a wider working group.

It also brings together the largest industrial textile sorters in the North-West European region including the Boer Group, I:CO (part of the Soex Group), JMP Wilcox (part of Textile Recycling International) and TEXAID, placing key industry players firmly at the heart of the project.

Circle Economy will lead the creation and implementation of the methodology, with support from Refashion, to assess textile waste composition. Both organisations build on their extensive experience from similar projects, such as the Interreg Fibersort Project and previous textile composition analyses.

The analysis aims to provide the most representative snapshot of textile waste composition generated in Europe and will map the current and future capabilities of textile recyclers in the region to illuminate crucial gaps between the sorting and recycling industry and the innovation, investment and policy changes required to accelerate circularity.

The French accredited Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) eco-organisation Refashion, a key project partner, will provide input into the methodology and lead the NIR scanner calibration. Aligning the Sorting for Circularity Project with its own study in France will ensurs methodologies and findings can be standardised, compared and implemented on a larger scale.

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