Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 25

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THE EUROPEAN WAY
At Aurora Specialty Textiles Group Inc.,
Yorkville, Ill., a manufacturer of printable
fabrics, technical textiles and pressuresensitive tapes, a recycling program called
FabRecycle™ was less successful. "We
haven't done the FabRecycle program for
many years," says Aurora president Marcia
Ayala. "Everyone liked the idea, but they
didn't want to send the used fabric to be
recycled and didn't want to pay more for
the initial product that was made from
recycled PET [polyethylene terephthalate]
bottles. I still think it is very important
that we continue to innovate and look
for other ways to be a good steward to the
environment through recycling."
Marisa Adler, senior consultant and
lead author of the RRS report, points
out that there is a real cost to collecting,
transporting, aggregating and sorting
materials. "It's not unrealistic for
industrial textile fabricators to expect to be
compensated if they collect or otherwise
handle used textiles," she says. "While
there is work that can be done now to
prepare for a future of circular industrial
textiles ... it may be that the apparel
industry lays the path and proves out the
economics before the harder-to-tackle
industrial textiles industry follows suit."
RECYCLING ISSUES
AND INNOVATIONS
Polyester fiber mechanically generated
from recycled plastic bottles (rPET) is the
textile industry's favorite "sustainable"
fiber. The global rPET market is expected
to be worth $12.5 billion by 2026, with
close to 50 percent going into fiber. While
the demand for rPET is surging as global
brands commit to phasing out virgin plastic
fibers over the next 10 years, the supply of
postconsumer PET bottles is governed by
recycling behavior as opposed to demand.
But polyester fibers created via mechanical
recycling and used for textiles usually
lack the purity needed to be mechanically
recycled back into rPET for packaging.

IN TEXTILE RECYCLING

L

aunched for commercialization in March 2020, Fibersort is an
automated sorting technology that could enable the industry to
redirect textiles that have no destination other than downcycling,
landfill or incineration, into valuable feedstock for textile-to-textile recycling.
Using near-infrared (NIR) technology, Fibersort is able to categorize textiles
in 45 different fractions, based on color and fiber composition, including
cotton, polyester, wool, acrylic, nylon, viscose and blends.
The collection and sorting of textile waste is step one in reclaiming the
value being lost in the waste stream. While few municipalities in the U.S.
offer textile collection and recycling, European Union policy will oblige
its member states to collect textiles separately by 2025 and ensure that
the collection will not be incinerated or sent to landfill.
Natalia Papú Carrone, textiles research analyst for lead Fibersort project
partner Circle Economy, explains that the project began with Wieland
Textiles, a textile sorter in the Netherlands, and Valvan Baling Systems
in Belgium, which led the design, engineering, software development
and construction of the machine. "The first challenge was to build in
performance and accuracy," she says.
Circle Economy, together with collector Salvation Army ReShare,
mechanical recycler Procotex and chemical polymer recycler Worn Again
Technologies, joined the challenge to assess the business case of the
technology and find suitable destinations for the sorted textiles.
Sorting textiles by hand is extremely repetitive, including assessment
by touch and reading labels. Using an automated feed system, Fibersort's
latest iteration works at twice the speed of earlier versions and has shown
accuracy levels of 98 percent in identifying mainstream materials, such
as cotton.
"The return on investment depends on how the machine is used and the
end markets. Sorting and finding higher value destinations for the materials
is key, especially for certain challenging blends," says Papú Carrone.

The Fibersort machine can sort nearly 2,000 pounds (900 kg) of textiles per hour,
identifying 45 different categories of textiles. Photo: Salvation Army ReShare.

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Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 3
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 4
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 5
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Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 7
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 8
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