A closer look at the problem…
Our planet is working overtime. It has been predicted, that the world population will increase by more than a billion by 2030, and the overconsumption of the earth’s recourses are following. The textile industry is to blame for a huge part of the world collective CO2 emissions and, only second to the oil industry, it is the most polluting industry in the world. Every year more and more textile fibers are producer to meet increasing demands, and in 2018, the worlds production reached 111 million metric tonnes. In 2030 it is expected, that there will be produced 145 million tonnes of textile fibers.
We can not do without synthetic-, nor natural-based fibers. A part of our demand for textile fibers can, now and in the future, be covered by using fossil fuels, which is being used in production of synthetic fibers like polyester. Awareness of problems assiciated with extraction and consumption of fossil fuels is common knowledge, and therefore, many in the textile industry are beginning to look for ways to recycle synthetic fibers. However, the synthetic fibers can never stand alone. More than 1/3 of all textile fibers are the so-called cellulose-based fibers. Cellulose is a molecule found in plant cell walls. Cotton is the main source of cellulose-based fibers, which have some very special properties for transporting moisture, and make breathable fabric. Population growth means that there will be more mouths to fill, which is why we will lack agricultural land for growing cotton; The agricultural land must be prioritized for growing more food. In the textile industry, the difference between the amount of cellulose fibers we can produce and the ones we need is called “The Cellulose Gap” – and it’s growing!
Cellulose can, besides from in cotton be found in trees, and today a smaller part of the cellulose-molecules used for fiber production, comes from trees (and bamboo). The cellulose from trees is for instance used in the production of viscose, which is a so called man-made cellulose fiber. However, the use of wood pulp is far from unproblematic; it requires the correct handling of a great deal of toxic chemical assiciated with the viscose-process, if you want to make the wood-fibers usable for Textile purposes.
The solution is hidden in our trash. In Textile Change we have turned our eyes on a ressource with a high potential: Textile waste. Instead of growing cotton and chop down trees, we want to use those many tonnes of used textiles, that gets deposited and burned all over the world. Even though the clothes are worn out, the molecules that it is made of, are doing just fine. With the right treatment, the molecules can get a new life as the very first step in a production of ultra-sustainable textile fibers.
We are in full swing developing a patentable technology, that makes use of both a mechanical breakdown and a gentle chemical process, where each component in the textile waste can be separated. Here, we make sure to preserve the cellulose molecules and the remaining contents on a form where it can easily be reused. As the future demand for textile fibers cannot be covert with cellulose-based fibers alone, it is very important, that, for instance, polyester can be recycled after the separation as well.
We have illustrated the proces below. The proces holds the potential to lower the demand for production of new raw materiales, and at the same time we offer an alternative to burning and depositing textile waste.
Our main focus right now
1. The separation of textile waste
We want to rethink the handling of textile waste, and make sure that we do not loose recources with value. The biggest challenge for the reuse is that the textile waste is mixed with all kinds of materials that needs to be divided into categories. The division is important, as the materials needs to be ‘pure’ before they can be used in the production of new fibers, otherwise the quality will be too bad for the fibers to be used.
Mixed textiles of polyester and cotton are very common. With out method, that is not a problem. We can sort it out on a molecular level, and get pure streams of polyester, cotton and so on. Besides from fiber-materisl, we get by-products in the chemical process, which we either recover and reuse, or concentrate in preparation for resale.
2. The construction of a fiberspinning- plant
Cellulose-pulp is a precursor to the production of man-made cellulose-fibers. It is crucial to us to make good-quality cellulose-pulp, that can be used in the production of new cellulose-based fibers. To make sure that our method is bullet-proof, we have teamed up with a research group from Aarhus University to construct a fiberspinning- plant. Here, we are to test our method and illustrate, how it is possible to make fibers from the separated materials. The plant is being completed, and we expect to run the first fiber-spinning test in january 2021.
We are driven by the wish to make the textile-industry more sustainable. This has been acknowledged by Fonden for Entreprenørskab, from who we received a Sustainable Development Goals micro-grant. We received the grant, because we are working with goal nr. 12 “Responsible consumption and production” and nr. 15 “Life on land”.
We are (of course) not the only ones, who thinks that it is important to look upon textile waste differently. According to a directive from the EU from 2018, it becomes illegal to burn textile waste in 2025. So it is quite clear, that there is a need for finding a solution to, how the textile waste is to be handled. We are always open for an opportunity to collaborate, as our biggest wish is to be a part of a widespread solution, that can make a difference to the world.
If you want to see who we already collaborate with, and how we do it you can click below