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ReSuit Textile Recycling Project Aims to Make Denmark Circular Leader

A group of Denmark’s largest players has come together to redraw the boundaries for fashion design, recycling technologies and consumer behavior.

Research and technology company Danish Technological Institute has gathered a number of significant companies within fashion and textiles, raw material production and consumer behavior, as well as recycling technology experts. The objective is to foster a more sustainable textile industry and recycling of all textile waste in Denmark.

The project is called ReSuit (Recycling Technologies and Sustainable Textile Product Design): a Grand Solutions Project, supported by Innovation Fund Denmark with 13 million Danish krone ($2.12 million).

“Yearly, 100 billion textile units are produced worldwide and they are to a great extent treated as disposable cutlery,” said Anders Lindhardt of the Danish Technological Institute, which is in charge of the project. “Materials worth 400 billion euros [$486 billion] are lost as we lack infrastructure and solid recycling technologies on a very large scale. In this project, we are looking to get all textile waste in Denmark into a loop where it can become new textiles or raw materials for other products. If it succeeds, it can become a gamechanger.”

The consortium will address the textile problem from two angles–how can the textile industry get better at designing sustainably and which technologies can ensure circularity for consumer textile waste?

A key focus is also on sustainable design of textile products–textiles that are designed with recycling in mind. The result is aimed at phasing out substances that are not suitable for future recycling technologies and in design guides for sustainable textile products.

“Circularity is not a stock commodity,” said Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, sustainable materials and innovation manager at Bestseller, which is involved in the project. “We need disruptive innovation to create the circular solutions we strive for at Bestseller. It is an enormously complex field, which is why we are working on multiple elements simultaneously to be able to secure the sustainable fashion production of the future. With ReSuit, we are part of an ambitious and multifaceted collaboration.”

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“Here, Bestseller’s circular design principles come into a meaningful context and if the project manages to develop proper technologies from various knowledge areas, we will see a unified solution with far-reaching potential, not just in Denmark and not just for Bestseller, which is exactly what we are aiming for,” Jørgensen added.

Also involved is Naboskab, which specializes in understanding and changing consumer behavior and will focus mapping out how consumers can be motivated to act sustainably.

When it comes to textile waste, the project focuses on the 85,000 tons of clothes and textiles that enter the Danish market every year. In the end, more than half of these materials are incinerated as waste. From 2022, Denmark will start sorting clothes separately–and from 2025 the rest of the European Union will follow.

“Polyester accounts for half of all clothes fibers in the world. Therefore, we will further develop technology based on chemical recycling to recycle the polyester materials so that they can re[1]turn to the textile industry,” Lindhardt said. “The remainder of the textile products must be degraded using so-called HTL technology (hydrothermal liquefaction). The process makes it possible, under the influence of water, heat and pressure, to convert the complex textile stream into oil products that can be used for the production of plastic, fuel or synthetic textile fibers. HTL is a well-known and robust technology, but it is ground-breaking to apply it to textiles.”

In the project, the HTL technology will be further developed and scaled up in collaboration with A/S Dansk Shell, which has successfully tested the possibility of refining bio-oil products and sees opportunities for recycling other oil products.