Nordic pioneers convert worn-out workwear into a new raw material
A large-scale Nordic collaboration is now starting between two of the textile industry’s pioneers incircular economy. Swedish textile service company Elis and Finnish recycling leader Rester are collaborating to give the end-of-life workwear from Elis an extended life as new textile raw material through mechanical processing.
Swedish textile service company Elis and Finnish textile recycling company Rester have started a collaboration in which used workwear from Elis is recycled into new textile fibres and raw material. Through Rester’s mechanical processing, the end-of-life textilesare processed to smaller components and textile fibre, which can then be used as raw material in various industrial applications.
– Workwear garments can be complicated to recycle because they are often made of several different types of materials and textile blends, says Caroline Düberg Martinsson, Sustainability Coordinator at Elis. Rester is a unique industry player with their focus on large-scale recycling of complex textiles. Elis is a company at an international level, which on a daily basis handles hundreds of thousands of garments and textiles for industry, trade, healthcare, hotels and restaurants.
Major environmental benefits
Both Elis and Rester are pioneers in the textile industry in terms of circular economy. As a result of this collaboration, both companies will take concrete steps closer to their goals of contributing to solving the industry’s challenges with textile waste. Around 90 million tonnes of textiles are disposedannually worldwide. At the same time, textile production continues to increase and the textile industry accounts for 10% percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In Sweden there is through away an average of eight kilos of textiles a year per person.
– Approximately 80 percent of a garment’s environmental impact is in the manufacturing phase. By recycling already produced material, we minimize the need for new production of fibres and materials, which can result in large saving of environmental resources. Textiles are not finished as a usable material just because a garment no longer meets the functional requirements, says Caroline Düberg Martinsson, sustainability coordinator at Elis.
Largest in Northern Europe
Rester’s recycling plant in Finland opened in November 2021 and is the largest of its kind in Northern Europe. For every tonne of recycled fibre produced, 525 thousand liters of water and 3700 kg of CO2 are saved, compared to producing completely new textile fibers.
– Entering the circular economy requires a desire and readiness to bring change throughout the value chain. Textile recycling requires the commitment and willingness of both Rester’s suppliers of waste textiles, such as Elis, and companies that use recycled fibers in their process to make a change. The change may concern, for example, new practices or a change in the user of the fiber in relation to the technical properties or quality of the raw material. One of the most important aspects of utilizing recycled fiber on an industrial scale is to find the best possible application for each material fraction resulting to greater environmental savings., says Henna Knuutila customers and development manager at Rester
Scaling up the recycling facility is also in line with EU regulations that textile waste must be collected separately by 2025.
Pilot project with immediate results
The collaboration between Elis and Rester was started as a pilot project in the summer of 2021 and gave quick results:
– So far, Elis has sent just over 8.8 tonnes of textiles to Rester for recycling, which corresponds to a saving of over 4,600 cubic meters of water and 32 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents compared with new production, says Caroline Düberg Martinsson, sustainability coordinator at Elis. One of Elis’ sustainability goals by 2030 is for all discarded textiles to be reused or recycled. Thanks to the collaboration with Rester, our used workwear and other textiles can be reborn as a raw material for new products, instead of being sent for energy recovery.
Rester is the leading global forerunner in building textile recovery value chains. The company is located in southwest Finland and offers textile recycling solutions and enables the recovery of end-of-life textiles and production side streams from companies into a new textile fibre and quality raw material. In the process textiles are mechanically opened to fibres. Rester-recovered fibre can be used by numerous different industries to replace the use of virgin raw material. Our customers are companies using textiles and therefore providing us end-of-life textiles, as well as companies that can utilise Rester’s recycled fibre in their production or products.
Rester was established in 2019 and its operations started in November 2021. Rester´s main owner is sustainable work wear company Touchpoint Oy.
Elis offers comprehensive rental solutions for hygiene and textile services. Hundreds of thousands of workwear, carpets, drying cloths, bedding, bath and table textiles circulate daily between Eli’s laundries and clients in health and care, industry, trade, clean rooms, hotels and restaurants. Through logistics and textile care, the use of each garment and textile is optimized, and the need for new production is minimized. It is a way of working that is directly related to Sweden’s vision of a circular society, and a model that Elis has worked according to for over 70 years.
Elis Textil Sverige AB is part of the listed French Elis Group, which is present in 28 countries in Europe and Latin America. With headquarters in Malmö, Elis Sweden employs 1,400 people at 26 facilities across the country and has annual sales of SEK 2.1 billion. In 2020, Elis became the first company in Sweden to be certified for its work towards the UN’s global sustainability goals.
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