Eurovet (EN)

The french cotton recycling project is picking up pace

17 April 2019

Rewind is a forward-looking project for the cotton industry.
Supported by the Ademe and led by TDV Industries, in collaboration with CETI (the European Center for Innovative Textiles), this three year project launched in September 2017 with a budget of 6 078 155 € brings together several partners from industry and retail. Rewind seeks to develop a recycling process for cotton from used garments to make new clothes.

Increasing demand for cotton
Cotton is by far the favorite fabric of all consumers, from East to West, and North to South: healthy, comfortable, easy-wear, soft, practical, hypoallergenic, absorbent, reassuring…such are the words to describe consumers’ love affair with this material. Our wardrobes and lingerie drawers, in particular, overflow with this white gold.
These qualities can no longer hide a grim reality: 5 260 liters of water are needed to produce a single kilogram of cotton. Its cultivation requires a massive dose of pesticides (25% of all pesticides used throughout the world). Despite competition from synthetics, cotton fiber still represents a quarter of worldwide fiber production. In 2017/2018, world production of cotton increased by 10%, reaching 25.4 million tons (up 9%
over 2016/2017). According to the FAO, total demand for cotton may reach 28.3 million tons in 2025, in other words, 1.8 million tons higher than the record consumption of 2006. Over the coming decade, cotton
consumption will continue to grow faster than the world population. This is without taking into account a drop in production, already seen in China, but made up for by India, is expected.

A pilot project to add value to the industry
Mara Poggio, in charge of the Sustainable Development department at CETI, highlights the importance of this project for the entire industry: “There is a real challenge at stake in terms of sustained, economically viable added value for all types of used textiles, whose collection keeps growing and may reach 300 000 tons in 2020, according to Eco-TLC. The recycling of cotton offers solutions that will allow us to mitigate the likely decline in cotton cultivation. Our goal today is to bring added value during recycling.”
The very first samples, fresh out of the machines, are more than satisfying. A brand-new woven fabric created by the R&D department at TDV Industries has served as a starting point for developing a range of cotton fabrics containing around 70% recycled fibers. Knitwear tests have also shown satisfactory results. “There is no impact on the yarn. We must further improve its durability, which is still a bit weak and is preventing us from making 100% recycled fabrics for the moment”, explains Mara Poggio.

Initial objectives attained
For the CETI and its partners, including TDV Industries, the uses of recycled cotton fabrics are many. Though the goal of Rewind is clearly to develop a cotton recycling process that allows for the obtention of quality fibers, this project has already managed to meet technical challenges such as: the implementation of reliable, efficient collection thanks to collection and sorting firm Gebetex, the automation of the breakdown of used textiles and of their cutting into strips in preparation for reprocessing, and the creation of a new fraying machinery.
What remains is to evaluate recycled cotton fiber’s environmental impact. Rewind estimates that 3.8 kg’s-worth of CO2 are saved per kilo of recycled yarn, which, on the scale of the entire project (that is to say, 210 tons per year, eventually), would represent a net reduction in 800 tons’-worth of CO2.

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