The Swedish pulp producer Renewcell has just opened the world's first commercial-scale, textile-to-textile chemical recycling pulp mill, after spending 10 years developing the technology.
While mechanical textiles-to-textiles recycling, which involves the manual shredding of clothes and pulling them apart into their fibres, has existed for centuries, Renewcell is the first commercial mill to use chemical recycling, allowing it to increase quality and scale production. With ambitions to recycle the equivalent of more than 1.4 billion T-shirts every year by 2030, the new plant marks the beginning of a significant shift in the fashion industry's ability to recycle used clothing at scale.
"The linear model of fashion consumption is not sustainable," says Renewcell chief executive Patrik Lundström. "We can't deplete Earth's natural resources by pumping oil to make polyester, cut down trees to make viscose or grow cotton, and then use these fibres just once in a linear value chain ending in oceans, landfills or incinerators. We need to make fashion circular." This means limiting fashion waste and pollution while also keeping garments in use and reuse for as long as possible by developing collection schemes or technologies to turn textiles into new raw materials.
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