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EU New Cotton Project completes first half of three year project

Tom Shearsmith
28 July 2022

The New Cotton Project has announced the completion of the first half of the three year project, which has seen the consortium demonstrate the successful implementation of the entire value chain. 

In an industry first, the New Cotton Project launched in 2020 to drive adoption of the circular economy within the textile sector, bringing together twelve pioneering players from across the manufacturing value chain along with leading research institutes. The initiative set out to harness technology and collaboration to demonstrate a potential circular model for commercial garment production.

The milestone marks the release of the first set of insights garnered by the consortium as it prepares for the commercial run of the Adidas and H&M garments, and releases its first white paper through Aalto University.

Scheduled across a three year timeline, the consortium set out to collect and sort end-of-life textiles and use pioneering Infinited Fiber technology to regenerate it into a new man-made cellulosic fibre called Infinna, which looks and feels just like virgin cotton.

The fibres are then manufactured into different types of fabric to be designed, produced, and sold by Adidas and H&M. Set to launch in autumn/winter 2022, the pieces will be the first to be produced through the collaborative consortium.

The midway point sees the consortium celebrate the successful implementation of the entire value chain from textile sorting to the production of garment samples. The textiles sorting and mechanical processing phase of the project has been completed by Frankenhuis, who analysed fabric composition of sorted textiles and explored pre-processing techniques to identify the correct feedstock for the Infinited Fiber Company process.

The initial steps were supported by REvolve Waste, whose ongoing work to map the location and content of textiles waste across Europe will continue through-out the project.

Adidas and H&M successfully tested and developed styles made with the unique fabric and are now preparing for the commercial production run. Answering another critical consideration for the project, Adidas has also run a series of consumer surveys in order to understand consumer attitudes towards circular and recycled fashion.

The process to date has highlighted a number of challenges and opportunities for the future of closed-loop end-of-life solutions in textiles:

  • Sorting for recycling is key to empowering circularity within the industry, but there are many challenges and opportunities in this process.
  • Fibre identification technologies have limitations and there is a lack of a unified way to sort. With a unified system, feedstocks will be more consistent and make the best use of the current technology.
  • Mandatory reporting requirements for fibre composition in textile products help to assess the recyclability of materials on the market in a more reliable way.
  • New ways of communicating and working through-out the value chain needs to be implemented to build closer collaboration between designers, sorting facilities and recycling technologies.
  • There is still a lack of understanding around circularity in the context of textiles highlighting a need for greater ongoing consumer education.
  • An overall positive perception of recycled fabrics, and willingness to accept differences in recycled fabric, indicating that a larger offer of recycled clothing will be well received in the market.

As the New Cotton Project enters the second phase, the consortium will continue to focus on data collection and analysis in order to highlight relevant insights for the industry, which will be disseminated by Fashion for Good.

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