Follow us


UKFT leads £4m recycling project for waste textiles

Lauretta Roberts
14 June 2023

UKFT is leading a £4 million project, with partners including Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Pangaia and New Look among others, which could eventually divert thousands of tonnes of waste textiles from landfill each year. 

The UK fashion and textiles trade body is leading the initiative to develop and pilot a pioneering fully-integrated, automated sorting and pre-processing plant for waste textiles.

Autosort for Circular Textiles Demonstrator (ACT UK) is a two-year project that will support the transition from uneconomic manual sorting of clothes and textiles, that are not suitable for resale, to highly-automated sorting and pre-processing, which can then be used as feedstock for existing and emerging recycling processes.

ACT UK brings together a consortium of recycling technologies, textile collectors/sorters, academia, manufacturers, industry associations, technologists and brands/retailers. It has been supported with funding from the Circular Fashion Programme supported by Innovate UK, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), all part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

With close involvement of Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems, the project partners are IBM, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Pangaia, New Look, Reskinned, Salvation Army, Oxfam, Textile Recycling International, Shred Station, Worn Again Technologies, English Fine Cottons, Alex Begg, Camira, Manufacturing Technology Centre, University of Leeds, University of Huddersfield, Textile Recycling Association and WRAP.

ACT UK will build on sorting approaches that are currently coming to market in countries such as the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. The UK approach will innovate, combine and advance existing and new supporting technologies to overcome current barriers to materials circularity.

The project will bring together and advance key technology components including state of the art optical scanning, robotics, AI, pre-processing (buttons, zips, trim removal) and size reduction equipment – all under one roof. It will create a world-class blueprint that integrates the latest technologies and can be deployed across the UK.

Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, said: “What happens to our textiles when we no longer need them is a growing problem that we cannot ignore. With this ground-breaking project, we’re aiming to create a model to sort and prepare NRT for recycling in a way that’s never been done before, at scale. A national system of recycling plants could save 100,000s of tonnes of material from entering landfill. In turn, the system could generate huge volumes of material for use across the UK textile manufacturing sector.”

UKFT is calling upon brands, retailers and others to take part in the landmark project. For more information email [email protected].

Free NewsletterVISIT