The vast amount of textile waste is a global problem. The EU will start collecting textile waste in 2025, but how should we deal with all the collected material? A Finnish solution for textile recycling is already available to b2b businesses internationally.
Global production and consumption of textiles has been growing steadily over the last 30 years. As the world population grows and becomes wealthier, the growing demand for textiles is projected to continue.
The textile industry consumes large quantities of energy, chemicals, water and non-renewable resources, and the current approach is not sustainable. Fortunately, existing textiles are also valuable materials. We just need to make use of them. In the EU, separate collection of textile waste will become mandatory by 2025.
“Many countries are now working hard on what to do with the huge masses of textiles once they have been collected. In Finland, research and development has been carried out for years and as a result, further processing of discarded textiles is already taking place,” says Satumaija Levón, Chief Advisor of Sustainability and Circular Economy at the Finnish Textile & Fashion.
“We are looking to expand rapidly. The green tidal wave is moving ahead.”
In Finland, separate collection will become mandatory already in 2023. Preparations have been made for the change, and a processing plant for waste textiles has already been built. It started operating in November 2021.
The textile recycling centre, run by Rester Oy and Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy (LSJH), will process companies’ and consumers’ waste textiles into recycled fibre. This fibre can be made into raw material for new textile products or used in other industries to replace virgin raw materials.
This is how the textile recycling centre works
Textile waste welcome
It may sound a bit strange that Finland is happy to receive discarded textiles, but it really is true. Finland has successfully developed new ecological textile fibres that can be manufactured using textile waste as raw material. Textile waste is needed to enable Finland to further process recycled fibres on an industrial scale.
At the same time, there is a strong demand for textile recycling know-how.
“Finland is a natural location for the hub, as we are ahead of the rest of the world in the circular economy of textiles.”
“Currently, our textile recycling plant can process 12,000 tonnes of textiles per year, but we are looking to expand rapidly. We receive a huge number of enquiries from all over the world. The green tidal wave is moving ahead,” says Outi Luukko, CEO of Rester Oy.
One win-win solution proposal has already been made. Finland could act as one of the EU’s textile recycling hubs and offer to process discarded textiles in the northern European region. Rester already processes companies’ waste textiles from Finland’s neighbouring countries at its Paimio processing plant. LSJH currently receives and processes consumer textiles from Finland.
“Finland is a natural location for the hub, as we are ahead of the rest of the world in the circular economy of textiles. Our recycling plant is located in an area dedicated to circular economy of textiles. Therefore it is easy for other operators to come and build an ecological hub with us,” says Outi Luukko.
Satumaija Lévon goes on to say, “There is no need to reinvent the wheel in every country. The other Nordic countries, for example, could take advantage of the recycling services already available in Finland. Buying recycled fibres processed here is another option: they could be used to make new products in a more sustainable way.”