The accelerating consumption and disposal practices cause textiles entering the market to reach their end-of-use rapidly. In North-West Europe alone, around 4,700 kilo tonnes of post-consumer textile waste is generated every year.
An average of 30% of post-consumer textiles is collected as a separate waste stream.
In the best-case scenario, these textiles are sold in the second-hand market both locally and internationally. In North-West Europe this average of rewearable textiles is around 64% of collected textiles.
The remaining 36% is considered non-rewearable textiles due to their unsuitability for the second-hand market or the market saturation that second-hand clothing is currently facing. Almost all of these textiles are currently being downcycled, incinerated or landfilled. Accelerating consumption and disposal practices, coupled with lower quality clothes, leads this fraction of textiles to continue to grow.
Nevertheless, 24% of collected textiles have the potential to be recycled, but currently are not. These textiles are mono-materials that are made of one or two fibre compositions.
Automated sorting technologies could enable the industry to turn non-rewearable textiles that currently have no other destination than downcycling, landfill or incineration into valuable feedstock for high-value recycling. One of these technologies is the Fibersort, a Near Infrared (NIR) based technology able to categorise textiles based on their fiber composition, structure and colour.
Valvan Baling Systems is the technology developer of the Fibersort. Throughout the project they have improved the design, engineering and construction in order to optimise the technology's performance in real life operating conditions, while developing the recognition software and the fibre library. More information on the technical aspects of the Fibersort can be found here.