Fashion-tech Special
Renewcell on becoming the first to make textile-to-textile virgin quality recycling work at scale
The next step is to ”recycle” a paper mill.
22 Jun 2022

The Swedish company, chief growth officer Harald Cavalli-Björkman shares, receives used garments and textile production waste containing natural fibres, like cotton or viscose.

— The textiles are shredded, de-buttoned, de-zipped, de-coloured, and turned into a slurry. Contaminants and other non-cellulosic content are separated and what remains is Circulose — our dissolving pulp made from 100% recycled textiles. The sheets of Circulose are then sent to fibre producers, tapping into the existing value chain as a replacement for virgin materials like cotton, oil, and wood. The fibres made with Circulose are, for all intents and purposes, the same as conventional virgin fibres made from wood — the only difference is circularity.

After launching products with the likes of H&M, Levi’s, and Bestseller, and working with pre-commercial developments with PVH (Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and Kering (Gucci, ­Bottega Veneta, and more), the next step is to ”recycle” a paper mill outside of Sundsvall in northern Sweden.

— It had to close down due to the decline in graphic paper demand in recent years, Cavalli-Björkman explains. This provided us with the opportunity to reuse the buildings, the infrastructure on-site, and most importantly, the highly skilled people that know how to run these machines. We see ourselves as part of an ”industrial evolution” where we reuse and reimage instead of tearing down and building new, an approach we hope can inspire a new thinking when building up new industries. The capacity of this new plant will be 120,000 tonnes per year, which is equivalent to more than half a billion t-shirts and almost all of Sweden’s annual textile fibre consumption. Production will start in summer this year. By 2030, we want to produce at least 360,000 tonnes.