To infinity and beyond!
Debut INDEX™20 exhibitor Infinited Fiber Company is rapidly discovering that its technology is something the world has been waiting for – a rapid and cost-effective route for turning cotton-rich waste textiles into high-quality, bio-based regenerated fibres.
The Finnish company’s patented process can do this repeatedly, turning any cellulose-rich raw material – including discarded textiles, used cardboard, rice or wheat straw – into cellulose carbamate fibres, which have just been branded Infinna™.
These are unique, high-quality textile fibres with the look and feel of cotton.
The Infinited technology is based on three key processes – fibre separation from the waste materials, turning the fibre waste into liquids, and then turning the liquids back into new fibres.
What is more, the process can be readily integrated into existing pulp plants, lowering both investment costs and risks. As an add-on process in existing viscose plants meanwhile, it provides the additional benefit of eliminating the hazardous chemical carbon disulphide (CS2).
Already, the company has announced collaborations with six of the world’s leading fashion and textile brands – Bestseller, H&M Group, Patagonia, PVH Corporation and Wrangler.
“The feedstock is waste, and the technology does not use high amounts of water or harmful chemicals,” said Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, Sustainable Materials and Innovation Manager at Bestseller. “Infinna™ fibre is commercial quality and can be used to create the styles that our customers love. The clothes we make using it can even be recycled again. All of this is making Infinited technology the ultimate solution to our strategy of becoming circular by design.”
“This shows the industry that apparel waste has high value and is something to be utilised,” added Patagonia’s Materials Development Director Sarah Hayes. “This waste is not only being upcycled but is being used to make a new premium fibre that can help push the industry towards circularity.”
The six brands have now conducted in-house quality testing on various types of textiles created from Infinna™ fibres, including single jersey, French terry, denim and shirting fabrics. Each has found the fibres and textiles they have tested to meet their brand’s stringent material quality requirements and view the fibres as ready for commercial applications.
Finnish multinational Suominen – a leading global supplier of nonwovens for wipes – is also endorsing the technology, while technology group Andritz has announced a cooperation agreement to commercially develop the Infinited process and equipment solutions.
“Suominen has been working closely with Infinited and it has been thrilling to see results develop from an idea into a commercially viable product,” said the company’s Product Development Manager Miika Nikinmaa. “We see great benefits in working with Infinna™ for circular product design and a less wasteful future for essential single-use items.”
“The Andritz equipment and process portfolio offers good opportunities for fibre production technology, and our cooperation with Infinited is a significant step towards creating a new type of textile fibre,” said Kari Tuominen, President and CEO of Andritz Oy. “Textile waste recirculation is becoming mandatory in the EU in 2025 and we want to be involved in developing new bio-based fibres from textile waste and also from other pulp-based materials.”
Under the newly signed cooperation agreement, Andritz and Infinited will work together to get the technology to market.
Andritz will then build equipment for both the mechanical and chemical pre-treatment processes, as well as for the carbamation process. This will quickly be followed by factory deliveries, with Infinited already expecting to secure commercial deals during 2021.
“Bringing to market a new technology, a new fibre type, and even a new way of operating in accordance with circular economy principals requires the creation of a strong ecosystem of experts working towards common goals,” said Infinited Co-founder and CEO, Petri Alava. “Andritz is a leading factory equipment supplier, and we are delighted to be working with them to prepare our textile fibre regeneration technology for commercialisation.”
As Kari Tuominen notes, this technology is very much of its moment, with both nonwovens and textiles manufacturers actively searching for solutions to aspects of the European Union’s highly ambitious new Green Deal.
This will see €750 billion pumped into a wide range of projects, with the overall aim of making the entire continent climate neutral by 2050.
Introduced by the European Commission in March 2020, the latest Circular Economy Action Plan aims to further stimulate the development of climate neutral and circular products. It will prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them and set minimum requirements to prevent environmentally harmful products from being placed on the EU market. Extended producer responsibility (EPR) will also be strengthened and will focus, in particular, on resource-intensive sectors such as textiles.
There will be mandatory separate collection for waste clothing in the EU by 2025 in any case, so urgent solutions for recycling or re-use are required.
EPR has already been introduced for waste clothing in France, and at the end of 2020, Sweden announced it would introduce a similar scheme.
For nonwovens companies like Suominen, the Infinited process represents another avenue for responding positively to the EU’s Single-Use Products Directive (SUPD).
Both nonwoven wipes and feminine hygiene products are included on the SUPD list of the ten products most commonly found discarded on European beaches. In July this year, laws come into force requiring such products containing non-biodegradable plastics to carry prominent warning labels, with extended producer responsibility for their clean-up, collection and disposal coming into place in December 2024.
As will be evident at INDEX™20, however, just as there are endless possibilities for nonwoven applications, there are just as many routes to the fibres employed in them and their constructions. Discover an endless world of evolutionary innovation at Palexpo from September 7-10 this year.