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Isko Taps HKRITA’s Green Machine to Advance Circularity

A recent signatory to Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign program, Isko is taking a step to overcome one of the biggest challenges in post-consumer recycled denim fabrics.

The company recently announced a licensing agreement for Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel’s (HKRITA) award-winning Green Machine, a one-of-a-kind technology that fully separates and recycles cotton and polyester blends at scale. The Green Machine uses an innovative and ultra-efficient hydrothermal treatment method that decomposes cotton into cellulose powders and enables the separation of polyester fibers from blended fabrics.

One of the most important advantages of this method is that it does not damage the polyester fibers and therefore maintains their quality. Additionally, the closed-loop process uses only water, heat and less than 5 percent biodegradable green chemicals.

The Green Machine is the culmination of a four-year, 5.8-million-euro ($7 million) collaboration between HKRITA and H&M Foundation that began in 2016. Though the technology is still in the pilot phase, it is an additional step in Isko’s mission to improve and commercialize recycling technologies.

“Isko has a total commitment to sustainability and through our Responsible Innovation approach, we are constantly looking for new ways of working towards the future of a fully circular fashion industry. Our investment in this new technology is another milestone towards our full circularity vision,” said Fatih Konukoğlu, Isko CEO.

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The investment is the latest in the mill’s ongoing drive for advancements in sustainability. As part of the company’s R-Two program, it is also working to develop fabrics with a guaranteed minimum 50 percent or higher GRS (Global Recycle Standard) recycled content blend. This will significantly reduce the carbon and water footprint of a fabric, as well as make it easy for consumers to trace a garment’s sustainable journey step-by-step from the beginning of the supply chain through to the product they purchase.

Isko aims to eventually offer a 100 percent post-consumer recycling solution to all customers.

“The Green Machine is a ground-breaking recycling technology,” said Edwin Keh, HKRITA CEO. “Seeing this project become truly commercially viable is wonderful. We are excited to learn that Isko [recognizes] our innovation and applies this recycling solution into its production. The Green Machine will definitely become another green credential of Isko.”

Isko’s partnership with HKRITA is the company’s latest string of strategic collaborations. The mill recently announced its participation in MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab’s Alliances program, which allows it to research and develop smart textiles and wearable technologies with the help of the program’s researchers, students and industry partners. The company also signed a “landmark” technology licensing agreement that brings Isko and Soorty, a Pakistan-based denim manufacturer and competitor  together for the production of fabric and garment collections.