The textile industry has a huge impact on the environment and new sustainable solutions are needed for each stage of a textile’s life cycle. Available raw materials are not meeting growing needs for textile fibres and at the same time, millions of tons of textile waste are burned or end up in landfills. Finland is leading the revolution towards sustainable materials and business models in the international textile business.
The production and consumption of textiles causes significant environmental, climate and social impacts due to the vast amounts of water, land, pesticides and chemicals used as well as the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants caused by the industry. The currently available raw materials cannot meet the constantly growing demand for fibres and textiles. At the same time, on a global scale, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is produced every year of which 75-85 % is either burned or ends up in landfills.*
Finland offers groundbreaking solutions and knowhow at every level of the sustainable textile ecosystem from textile waste handling, treatment, B2B & B2C sales and usage, collection and recycling to identification and back to waste handling.
“By replacing primary raw materials with recycled components or using, for example, wood-based textile fibre, and by keeping already existing materials in the economy as long as possible, we have the opportunity to impact the huge global system and value chains,” says Marika Ollaranta, Head of the Bio and Circular Finland program from Business Finland, Finland’s trade, investment and travel promotion and innovation funding organization. “Finnish innovations offer revolutionary solutions that cover the whole life cycle of a textile. Governments, consumers and the industry itself are waking up to the challenges of a very single-use oriented industry, but more work is needed to build awareness and change mindsets and behaviour to make the cycle more sustainable, while also maintaining the level of quality and reasonable costs.”
Rester collaborates closely with Southwest Finland’s municipal waste management company LSJH in a project that brings together the private and public sectors in textile waste handling.
From waste handling to a textile’s physical features, NordShield®’s patented technology enables natural antimicrobial treatment of textiles, free of heavy metals.
Spinnova and Infinited Fibre Company have come up with innovative ways of making fibre out of wood pulp and discarded textiles, while Emmy Clothing Company has created a transparent resale-as-a-service for clothes, which makes it possible for all actors in the ecosystem to participate in prolonging a textile’s life cycle.
Waste management & recycling: The Nordics’ first large-scale end-of-life textile refinement plant opens in Finland this summer
Responding to the growing issues of textile waste, new textile recycling regulations will come into force in the EU in 2025. However, Finland aims to start the process already by 2023.
Rester, together with LSJH, is opening a textile refinement plant in Paimio, Finland, that will refine end-of-life textiles into raw material fibre that can be used in new products. The plant could become one of the biggest textile refinement plants in Europe, making Finland one of the Nordics’ recycling hubs. The plant’s two production lines will process post-consumer textiles from households and pre-consumer textiles from the B2B sector. At its launch, the plant will process 12000 tonnes of end-of-life textiles annually. The plan is to scale up the volume in the future to double the capacity.
“There has been a lot of interest towards the new plant and we are very excited to be the forerunner in the systemic change of the textile industry. Our goal is to guarantee the quality of the recycled fibre, optimize the material to meet the customers’ needs and ensure the best possible product performance by further development of the fibre. Our vision is to build an eco-community, Green Field Hub, in Paimio, and create a closed loop system that enables the reuse and recycling of textiles at scale, together with the other actors in the ecosystem,” says Outi Luukko, CEO of Rester.
New materials to meet growing demand for textiles: New fibres that are recyclable to begin with
Finnish textile company Spinnova makes fibre directly from wood pulp or pulp made of side streams without dissolving and the use of harmful chemicals. The manufacture of sustainable textile fibre made with Spinnova’s method creates 0 % waste or side streams, 0 % microplastics and has minimal CO2 emissions and water use.
“We want to help fill the textile industry’s sustainability deficit by making cellulose-based materials cost-efficient, environmentally friendly and preferred option for brands. Replacing cotton with the patented SPINNOVA® fibre could have a significant impact on the whole value chain by reducing the emissions and use of water,” says Spinnova’s Head of Communications Emmi Berlin. Spinnova’s collaboration with iconic design house Marimekko has been recognised in the Sustainability category in Fast Company’s 2020 Innovation by Design Awards.
Finnish biotechnology company Infinited Fiber Company is known for technology that can turn discarded textiles into a premium regenerated textile fibre, called Infinna™. Infinna has the soft and natural look and feel of cotton and it offers a circular alternative to less sustainable conventional textile fibres that rely on virgin raw materials. The company was recently listed on the 2021 Global Cleantech 100 list.
“Infinited Fibre’s technology is not dependent on a single raw material but offers a way to create value out of multiple waste streams while reducing pressure on natural resources, land and water. The technology can be fed with a range of cellulose-rich raw materials to create unique textile fibres with the natural look and feel of cotton and superior properties. The created fibres have natural antimicrobial properties, they are biodegradable, contain no microplastics, and can be recycled together with other textile waste,” says Petri Alava, cofounder and CEO of Infinited Fibre Company.
Infinited Fibre Company is also leading the EU-funded New Cotton Project, a consortium of brands, manufacturers, suppliers, innovators and research institutes that is breaking new ground by demonstrating an entirely circular model for commercial garment production. This is a world first in the fashion industry. Over a three-year period, textile waste will be collected, sorted and regenerated into Infinited Fibre Company’s unique, cellulose-based textile fibres which will be used to create different types of fabrics for clothing designed, manufactured and sold by global brand Adidas and companies in the H&M Group.
A physical armor against COVID-19?
Finnish biotechnology company NordShield® has created natural-based antimicrobial technology that works against bacteria, fungi and viruses (including human corona viruses). It is free of heavy metals and instead harnesses the ancient power of Nordic forests. In its various forms, the technology can be applied to textiles and fibres as well as medical devices, plastics and even skin.
“The power of nature is the power of NordShield®. We want to eliminate the usage of non-sustainable, non-renewable and toxic ingredients in antimicrobial protection. By offering a superior alternative to the existing antimicrobial products, we are making a positive impact on the world and making the new normal as safe as possible. Our technology minimizes the chemical load on the environment and is also cost-competitive,” says NordShield®’s CEO Kristoffer Ekman.
The recently launched NordShield® BioLayr is a durable antibacterial solution for making consumer textiles antimicrobial. The revolutionary NordShield® Brilliant technology can be applied to a variety of products, such as for sanitizing hands, feet, surfaces and even community face masks. Tests conducted in December 2020 and January 2021 confirm NordShield® Brilliant’s long-lasting efficacy for up to five weeks. Before the market entry of NordShield® Brilliant products, disinfectants have used alcohol as the active substance to eliminate microbes and germs. However, the effect of alcohol is short-lived; after it has evaporated, typically in a matter of seconds, the treated surface or skin is exposed to contamination again. NordShield® Brilliant products contain alcohol for the immediate kill effect, but the long-lasting efficacy is derived from its disruptive technology that is based on a unique layer that does not evaporate but forms a physical, armor-like barrier on the treated surface. The technology is available for wholesalers throughout the EU/EEA and in Switzerland.
Less waste: Getting more wear out of our clothes
Emmy Clothing Company is a leading Nordic online marketplace for pre-owned premium clothing. The webstore enables consumers, apparel retailers and fashion brands to easily and efficiently resell, discover and buy high-quality fashion, with complete transparency regarding quality, availability and delivery options. With a focus on quality, all the items are hand-inspected and authenticity-checked. Emmy also provides consumers and partners a fully transparent service toward textile reuse, and valuable information on apparel quality as well as the apparel’s impact on the environment.
“Extending the clothing lifecycle is our mission. The most sustainable way is to use the clothing in its original form. We want to offer our customers a fun, effortless and rewarding way to recycle clothes,” says Emmy’s CMO Taru Marjamaa.
*Pulse of Fashion industry 2017