Södra’s breakthrough will enable Large-scale Textile Recycling

At present, no one in the world can recycle fibres from blended fabrics on a large scale. Södra now has a unique solution that will enable circular flows in the fashion and textile industry.

Around the world, more than a hundred million tonnes of textile fibres are produced each year, and only a fraction is ever recycled.

Governments are starting to demand it, and we all know it: Textile products must become part of the circular bioeconomy.

There’s a catch to that, though. No one has ever been able to work out how. Until now.

Only a negligible proportion of the global production of clothing and textiles is recycled today. Virtually everything is sent to landfill or incineration. But Swedish innovation and a willingness to help mitigate climate change can now influence the game at a global level,” said Lars Idermark, President and CEO of Södra.

One of the major obstacles to textile recycling is that the fabrics are often made from blended materials. Södra’s new technique can separate the cotton and polyester in polycotton blends, which are one of the most widely used textiles on the market. The pure cotton fibres are then added to our wood-derived textile pulp, which can then be used to make new textiles.

“We are now redrawing the map for the fashion and textile industry by offering circular flows of textile fibres. A sweater can now become a sweater again. This will create added value for our customers, and especially the fashion industry. It’s a big day for us and an equally big day for the emerging circular bioeconomy,” said Johannes Bogren, President of Södra Cell Bioproducts.

During the autumn, Södra’s pulp mill at Mörrum produced pulp by adding 20 tonnes of used textiles. At present, Södra can only accept white textiles, but the aim is to also find a decolouring solution. The goal is also to investigate the possibility of extracting a stream of residual products from the polyester. Swedish laundry and textile service provider Berendsen delivered the test material used in the pilot project comprising end-of-life sheets, towels, tablecloths and bathrobes from hospitals and hotels.

“We will be able to accept viscose and Lyocell in addition to Polycotton blends. Due to the technological change in our processes, we will be needing large volumes of textiles. We are now seeking companies with high sustainability ambitions that would like to partner with us in the delivery of textiles,” said Helena Claesson, Project Manager, Södra.

Production will commence at a low rate of 30 tonnes this year, but the long-term target is to add 25000 tonnes of textiles to the company’s pulp production.

Waste is not the end

Welcome to the dawn of a new age. The age where textiles finally enter the circular bioeconomy. Sustainably, large-scale and long-term.

Being Södra, we have a strong ally behind us. It is called the Swedish forest. For more than eighty years, we have never stopped exploring the endless possibilities of wood – and making the best use of the opportunities. In this case, the forest helps us to finally bring textiles into the circular bio-economy. Over several years, we have developed and invested in a large-scale industrial process where we mix cellulose from wood with a substantial part-waste textile.

The result? A completely new raw material, ready to re-enter the textile industry.

Who gives a sheet?

Södra’s dissolving pulp is a work in progress – and will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Our long-term goal is to reuse every type of textile product, in any size, shape or form. Ambitious, yes, but not impossible.

The first step is to obtain the quantities of used textiles needed to start large-scale production during 2020. It is an environmental effort where we would like as many suppliers and partners as possible to participate.

We are currently looking for companies whose businesses inevitably involve large amounts of textile waste. If your company fits that description, there is probably no better time to act than now.

You will be part of an innovative, long-term and large-scale investment, developed by Södra to solve the global issue of textile waste.

The dissolving pulp from Södra is mainly made from birch at our pulp mill Mörrum. Dissolving pulp is used in the textile industry for the production of Viscose and Lyocell.

Clothes made of wood? It’s definitely a growing trend. There are great potential and a bright future for textile materials. Today, we have two different types of dissolving pulp with properties to meet a wide variety of requirements. The dissolving pulp can also be used in the manufacture of cellophane, sponge cloths, hygiene articles, etc. We manufacture our dissolving pulp from birch, aspen and beech from our own forests, so we can guarantee high quality and consistency every time. At full capacity we will produce 200000 tons of hardwood dissolving pulp.

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End products

End products today, the main market for dissolving pulp is the textile industry, for example, in the manufacture of viscose. Wood fibres have been used in clothing manufacture since the 1920s. The emerging market in Asia and the increased interest in environmental issues have contributed to an upswing in the production of this type of clothing. Today, 4-5 percent of the world’s textile fibres are based on cellulose from wood, corresponding to approximately four million tonnes of pulp.

The pulp can also be used in the manufacture of cellophane, sponge cloths, hygiene articles, etc.