By Valvan Baling Systems
The textile industry produces an unimaginable amount of waste. In North-West Europe alone, about 4,700 kilotonnes of post-consumer textile waste reach the end of their life cycle every year. Only about 30% of these are collected, sorted manually in waste management facilities, or sold overseas in second-hand markets.
Thus, when we speak of ‘closing the loop’, we refer not only to reducing dependence on virgin materials or upcycling waste back into the supply chain. In more practical terms, it also means developing technical innovations to keep the process flowing as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
This is when automated sorting technologies get in. With a technology that can automatically sort post-consumer textile, we can increase our chances of managing all textile waste more smartly and systematically.
It is all about the sorting
Fortunately, Valvan Baling System’s Fibersort has come up with a way to do exactly this. Using Near Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, they can sort textile according to fiber composition, color, and structure.
Fibersort is the product of collaboration between Wieland Textilesand Valvan Baling Systems initiatives. After getting funding from partners such as Leger des Heils ReShare, Smart Fibersorting, Procotex Corporation, Circle Economy, as well as support from the European Union’s Interreg Program, Valvan has now a working prototype.
Fibersort is heavily dependent on NIR Spectroscopy, a spectroscopic technique that detects molecular absorptions in the Near Infrared (NIR) scale. Since each material absorbs NIR waves differently, the machine can accurately determine each article’s composition faster than the blink of an eye. A colour scanner can also be installed to separate specific colors or shades of colors.
In its current iteration, Fibersort can sort less than 900 kilograms of articles per hour. A single Fibersort machine requires an operator who will feed one piece at the title to the conveyor belt.
The future holds
Although still clearly in the development phase, Fibersort’s innovative approach to sorting textile can be a huge step towards realizing ambitions of a true circular economy. This also shows that there are enormous opportunities for growth within the collection, sorting, and recycling sectors of the textile industry. Since no technically feasible tech has proven themselves to be scalable, it is practically open season for enterprises such as Valvan Baling Systems.
Indeed, the path to sustainability is not an uphill climb but an open field of possibilities.