Demand for textiles is on the rise, but still, more than 92 million tons of fabric end up landfilled or destroyed each year. Finland-based circular fashion and material technology group Infinited Fiber Company is looking to scale its efforts to enact change on this front.
The group, backed by H&M, Adidas and most recently Zalando, has tapped Swedish-Finnish engineering and design firm AFRY as the key collaborator for a forthcoming flagship factory, which will produce regenerated textile fibers for global apparel brands. Infinited’s proprietary fiber, Infinna, is created using cellulose-based materials like discarded textiles and used cardboard as well as post-consumer cotton.
The group, which currently operates pilot plants across Finland, is touting plans to break ground on a flagship factory there in 2024 in order to scale operations and meet growing demand from fashion brands across the globe. The creation of Infinna relies on post-consumer textile waste, and collection efforts to support the new facility will begin in 2023, the company said. The launch of the factory will coincide with an EU law calling for the mandatory collection of textile waste, which takes effect in 2025.
“This factory project is vital for us,” Infinited CEO and co-founder Petri Alava said. In addition to broadening the group’s reach, the facility will serve as a demonstration ground for Infinited’s technology as it aims to accelerate licensing by other pulp or viscose production bodies. “This is why we have chosen world-class experts like AFRY as our partners in the project,” he added, noting the engineering firm’s track record on similar projects.
Alava said the plant is slated to produce up to 30,000 tons of Infinna fiber annually—roughly enough for 100 million T-shirts. Even three years out from building the new facility, Infinited has sold a “significant portion” of future production capacity to global brands. Some have signed multi-year agreements with the textile innovation company as they look to incorporate regenerated fibers into their long-term circularity and sustainability strategies, he said.
AFRY will manage the basic engineering of the new factory, incorporating several technology and equipment deliveries into the plant and providing its AFRY Smart Services tech package to support its digitization. The platform will optimize and virtually connect the factory’s processes and operations in a centralized location.
“We are honored to partner with Infinited Fiber in this new investment to boost the circular economy in the textile industry by regenerating new fibers from textile waste,” Kalle Rasinmäki, AFRY’s head of process industries in Finland, said, noting that the company has “extensive experience” in implementing such large scale factory projects. “Together with Infinited Fiber, we are now designing a modern factory in Finland that will promote the use of regenerated fiber in the clothing industry,” she added.
Earlier this month, Los Angeles polyester recycling body Ambercycle announced its own partnership with H&M. The group, which touts a fully circular regenerated polyester fiber called Cycora as its signature product, launched a collaborative piece within H&M’s Circular Design Story collection in December. The line features ecologically focused inputs and processes, and included designs made from from Vegea’s vegan grape-skin-derived leather and ocean plastic fiber Repreve.
Like Infinited, Ambercycle uses post-consumer textile waste as the fodder for its regenerated fiber. Using a large scale chemical reactor, the company isolates the polymer content of any material blend. The polyester is liquefied, pelletized, and spun into new fibers, while the remaining slurry of blended fibers is put toward industrial use. Amid growing interest in circular fibers, Ambercycle is looking to scale its operations to better serve a growing roster of conscious fashion players, with plans to expand its U.S. footprint in the next several years.