Infinited Fiber Company Ltd. (IFC), currently running a 50-ton pilot plant in Finland, has raised 3.7 million euros ($4.11 million) in funding from investors, including H&M Group, Fortum and Virala, to help commercialize its recycled fiber.
According to the company, Infinited Fiber technology can turn textile, cardboard and agricultural waste to new and better cotton, “infinitely.” IFC said it plans to increase the annual capacity of the next generation sustainable textile fiber production by up to 500 tons in order to meet growing demand from the market—notably the denim sector.
The production process has three main phases: Fiber separation, turning material into liquid and turning liquid into fiber. The manufacturing process, which primarily uses cotton-rich textile waste, can also use most material containing cellulose, such as recycled paper, cardboard and agricultural waste, like straw, to make its “reborn fiber.” Original technology for the fiber was developed by VTT, the Technical Research Institute of Finland, though all rights and technology were transferred to IFC in early 2018.
The process and the technology yield a fiber which the company says has a natural soft look and feel, 30 percent to 40 percent better color uptake than competing fibers, as well as antibacterial, bio-degradable and moisture absorption qualities. In addition, it is cost competitive in the textile production supply chain, according to IFC.
“I’m very proud that we have created a technology that enables textile waste to be used over and over again by producing a strong, sustainable fiber without compromising quality and comfort,” IFC CEO Petri Alava, said. “We are delighted to welcome the global fashion retailer H&M Group, as well as Fortum, a leading clean energy and resource efficiency company, and Finnish investment company Virala to be our new partners in closing the loop for textiles.”
The denim sector will be a particular target for the new fiber.
“We have proven that…in denim applications, the commercial quality requirements can be reached with our Infinited Fiber,” Alava said. “The global denim industry is pushing us to bring our solutions to the market. Our reborn Infinited Fiber is reusable forever, carbon neutral and applicable like natural cotton without any microplastics harming the environment.”
Erik Karlsson, investment manager for sustainable fashion at H&M group’s investment arm CO:LAB., said IFC’s innovation “aligns perfectly with the H&M group’s sustainability goals and our vision to become fully circular.” Adding to that, Karlsson said, “We look forward to being part of developing and scaling this technology in the coming years.”
Heli Antila, head of Fortum’s business focusing on bio-based solutions for the Finnish state-owned energy company, said the company is studying ways to grow the business based on more efficient use of biomass.
“We believe strongly in bio-refining, new technologies and their role in a more sustainably produced textile fiber,” Antilla said.
IFC plans to license the Infinited Fiber technology for global fiber producers in the textile and non-woven industries. End-use applications include fashion, disposable personal care products and technical products.
The first licensed commercial plant with a capacity of 25,000 tons is scheduled to start production in 2020-2021. The IFC pilot plant started up production in March 2018 and is selling solutions to several leading global brands.