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Lenzing and Södra to Grow Tencel x Refibra’s Post-Consumer Textile Input

Lenzing, a global supplier of wood-based specialty fibers, and Södra, a major Swedish pulp producer, signed a cooperation agreement on Wednesday addressing textile waste.

The agreement involves the transfer of knowledge between the two companies, which have been proactively working toward creating a circular economy for many years, and a joint process development followed by a capacity expansion for pulp from post-consumer waste. The goal is to process 25,000 tons of textile waste per year by 2025.

Lenzing and Södra noted that millions of tons of textile waste are created each year, with most of it ending up in landfills. Both companies have independently addressed the issue and developed appropriate solution options. Now, the companies will work together to give textile recycling a major boost by further developing technologies toward a broader, industrial-scale use of post-consumer cellulosic waste.

The jointly developed pulp “OnceMore” will also be used as a raw material for the production of Lenzing’s Tencel x Refibra branded specialty fibers.

With Sodra, Lenzing’s Refibra recycling technology will now be able to truly incorporate post-consumer materials such as discarded garments, said Sonja Zak, head of circularity initiative at Lenzing.

“What we want to do together is to broaden the raw materials base of the OnceMore pulp with Lenzing’s knowhow and existing technology to include post-consumer wastes, colored textiles and increasing the quantity that can be produced,” Zak said.

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Lotta Lyrå, president and CEO of Södra, said through a new investment, the company will also 10-fold its production capacity of OnceMore pulp during 2022 and have a higher level of recycled textile content.

“These are important steps toward our long-term target to create a circular textile industry,” Lyrå said.

“In this turn around decade for our planet, making forest-based fabrics from recycled textiles is critical to protect biodiversity, alleviate pressure on forests and address the growing climate crisis,” added Nicole Rycroft, founder and executive director at Canopy, a forest conversation nonprofit. “Canopy is excited to see these two major producers join forces to bring vital next generation solutions to the fashion industry. We look forward to seeing greater commercial volumes come to market.”

Lenzing has extensive knowledge in developing cutting-edge innovations in recycling such as its Refibra and Eco Cycle technologies, Zak noted. Besides virgin dissolving wood pulp, these technologies allow the processing of a substantial proportion of recycled materials based on pre-consumer cottons scraps and post-consumer garments.

OnceMore by Södra is the world’s first process for industrial-scale recycling of textile waste of blended fibers. The process combines wood cellulose with textile waste to create a high-quality dissolving pulp that can be used to produce new clothing and other textile products.

Södra is the largest forest-owner association in Sweden, with a membership of 53,000 forest owners. It is also an international forest industry group, with 3,000 employees around the world. It produces timber products, pulp for paper and textiles, and green energy.

For Lenzing, this collaboration is another step along its path toward full circularity, Zak noted.

“As a result of this investment, Lenzing has made further progress towards implementing its climate targets, while achieving much greater autonomy with regard to one of its core raw materials,” Christian Skilich, a member of the managing board at Lenzing Group, said.

In 2019, Lenzing set the strategic target to halve its group-wide greenhouse gas emissions per ton of product by 2030. Its goal for 2050 is to achieve climate neutrality.

“We are ready to partner further with others [to] give the textile recycling process a normality that already exists in paper and glass recycling,” she added. “With this partnership, it means being faster, being stronger and driving the industry forward.”