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Circular Economy in the Textile Industry Against Throw-Away Culture and Resource Scarcity

This fall, the EU Commission will present its strategy for a sustainable textile sector. This is because the textile industry is one of the most environmentally damaging of all. One aspect of the EU strategy concerns the circular economy.

Dr. Rüdiger Fox, CEO of Sympatex Technologies, is a rigorous advocate of the circular economy. He has already won several awards for his sustainability-centered management.

Action is urgently required, as the numbers from the EU Commission show. Since 1996 the per-capita consumption of clothing has increased 40 percent while its useful life has markedly decreased. Across the EU nearly 26 kilograms of textiles are bought per inhabitant and 11 kilograms are disposed of, with the majority being incinerated or ending up in landfills.

It’s not just Fox who wants to change this – the industry is looking for solutions. There are already many initiatives and networks in existence – such as the expert group “Circular Economy” that has formed within the “Textilbündnis”. At the end of 2020 approaches for demand analysis and clustering of themes were addressed here.

The optimized recycling of textile production waste is the major theme of the RE4TEX network. Joining forces here are not only research institutes but also environmental and recycling companies with the aim of noticeably increasing the recycling rate in the textile industry. One of the partners is the “Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut (Stfi)” (Saxon Textile Research Institute) in Chemnitz. This institute is currently constructing a new set of buildings as a center for sustainability. The focal themes will include fiber-based mechanical recycling of textile fabrics and yarns as well as research on their reusability.

Research experts or people like Gerhard Becker, Managing Director of the Maxtex network, see promising approaches in the industry. Textile research by 16 German textile research institutes, supported by the “Forschungskuratorium Textil” of the textil + mode Confederation, has led to the development of ideas for better separation of used textiles and clean-grade recycling. Currently, a process chain is being developed that analyzes the quality of yarn or cuttings waste to be able to assess the product quality of recycled textiles in advance.

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