Unique fibre-to-fibre recycling technology for polyester aims to revolutionise the sector
Rewin’s process is based on chemical extraction and is described as transforming discarded textiles into high-quality, refined polyester ready for new production.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
December 21, 2023
Polyester constitutes 60% of newly produced textiles, with a great climate impact. There’s a substantial increase in demand for recycled textiles from both industry and consumers and also an urgent challenge posed by today’s low recycling rates for textiles and polyester. Swedish Rewin aims to revolutionise the sector with its fibre-to-fibre recycling technology.
— We’re committed to enhancing circularity in the textile industry, addressing the significant challenges posed by post-consumer textiles. Our goal is to minimise the industry’s impact by recycling discarded polyester, Anders Arkell, Chief Technology Officer, explains. Not only the industry’s substantial contribution to climate emissions but also the unsustainable practice of sending textiles to uncertain destiny outside the EU underscores the urgency of our mission. We focus on making the polyester circular by employing a fibre-to-fibre recycling process, creating new polyester with quality matching that of virgin material. This approach aims to reduce the industry’s climate impact by diverting textiles from becoming waste and transforming them into new raw materials.
We see many similar industry players now. What makes you unique?
— While numerous initiatives are currently centred on relatively pure and mono-coloured textiles, this is not our focus. We specialise in processing mixed textiles of all colours, with a particular emphasis on those with high polyester content, typically exceeding 70%. Our uniqueness lies in our capability to handle multicolour and mixed materials, enabling us to recycle a significantly larger fraction of the generated waste.
Rewin’s process is based on chemical extraction and transforming discarded textiles into high-quality, refined polyester ready for new production. The company is currently in the process of designing a pilot plant as a demonstration platform to produce prototypes, in the outskirts of Malmö, Sweden. The annual capacity is expected to be 20 tons and it’s laying the foundation for a full-scale facility in Sweden over the next four years.
— We’ll also be testing various feedstocks with high polyester content on a larger scale. Our primary objective is to validate that the product meets specifications and that the process remains robust with different incoming feedstocks. Simultaneously, we are actively engaged in equipment design, feedstock sourcing, and securing financing for our flagship plant, says Arkell. He continues:
— As of now, all our process development has been at bench scale. We initiated the process at the gram-scale and subsequently scaled up to kilogram scale. With support from our investors and the recently approved support from the Swedish Energy Agency, we are in position to further scale up and establish our pilot plant.
Arkell also highlights the importance of prioritising fibre-to-fibre recycling over using recycled polyester from PET bottles:
— Our solution creates a closed system for polyester within the textile industry, crucial for reducing dependence on virgin resources and promoting a sustainable circular economy, he explains, continuing,
— It is important that our region takes the lead in defining a robust framework for the implementation of the textile collection requirements that have been added to the EU waste directive. We also see it as significant to develop a robust sorting and valuation industry for textiles within Sweden and Europe. This industry is fundamental in ensuring a streamlined and efficient process for handling discarded textiles and is vital to guarantee the quality and availability of raw materials for recycling.