In the mainstream fashion culture, there's an unspoken rule to not wear the same outfit. Everything is supposed to be fresh and new. As a result, the industry has been wired to flood the market with products that are meant to reach the end of their life cycle within the span of a year.
What is it and how does it work?
The London-based company, Worn Again Technologies, has dedicated itself to changing this culture from the ground up. How? Following the principles of a circular economy, Worn Again is developing a technology that can turn used polyester, cotton, and PET materials into raw fibers that can be turned into new high quality products.
The problem with turning used and discarded textiles into new ones has often been the poor quality of the remanufactured materials which this not reach the standards of quality raw materials.
Worn Again aims to revolutionize this process with their unique technology which can replace the use of virgin resources by recapturing raw materials in high quality from non-reusable products.
Who is behind it?
Rhodes founded Worn Again in 2005 and was joined by Jamie Burdette from 2008 to 2012. During its early years, it partnered with footwear manufacturer Vivo Barefoot, then known as Terra Plana. The goal was to find a way to turn old textiles into footwear, handbags, jackets, and other products. Other fruitful collaborations included working with Eurostar and another with Hemingway Designs to create McDonald’s uniforms for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Their initial efforts were focused on recycling. However, they realized that no matter how much they refurbish old textiles, these products will always end up in the landfill. That is the moment when they decided to take the next step and start figuring out how to ‘close the loop’.
To figure out how to make recycled textiles from the molecular level, Rhodes and business partner Nick Ryan met Dr. Adam Walker who eventually became the company’s Scientific Officer.
Photo courtesy: Worn Again - Process chart
The worn Again technology has been developed to reduce the use of virgin resources by recapturing the existing end of use materials and put the regenerated raw materials back into supply chains. Their aim is to keep the world’s resources in constant circulation to drive economic, social and environmental benefits and contribute to eliminating textile and plastic waste. The fact that it can deal with both pure and blends of polycotton/ cellulose is a huge benefit as this has been one of the biggest challenges when processing discarded textiles into raw materials.
According to Worn Again CEO Cyndi Rhodes, “what we do is separate polyester and cotton, decontaminate everything, strip out dyes and finishes, and we are able to create or recapture a decontaminated raw material, polyester pellets, and cellulosic pulp.” This pulp serves as the main material of the upcycled fiber.
The key principles of the process are to ensure that the outputs are comparable in quality to virgin materials and that they have significantly reduced environmental impact compared to conventional production.
Photo courtesy: Worn Again - Recovered Polyester
Since dedicating themselves to this goal, Worn Again has gained support from a wide variety of investors including H&M and Suzer. At the moment, it is on its way to launching its first industrial demonstration in 2021. This demonstration is supposed to determine how plausible the technology is in a commercial context at a bigger scale.
Nevertheless, they assured that all major conceptual work has already been done, and the only remaining goals are focused on optimizing and scaling the technology for the consumer market.
Once Worn Again proves that its technology is safe, durable, and truly recyclable, it is going to change the industry in a huge way. We are only a few years away from changing not only how we consume, but also how we produce our clothes.
Sources https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/01/10/worn-again-transforms-old-clothes-into-raw-materials/#37688fa3c2bd https://wornagain.co.uk/
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.