A cooperation consisting of Austrian companies, charitable organisations and the Swedish pulp producer Södra are working together to produce new fibre from recovered textiles. Along with Södra, the partnership includes the Lenzing Group, a leading provider of speciality fibres for the textile and nonwoven industries, the packaging extended producer responsibility (EPR) organisation Altstoff Recycling Austria AG, the textile services provider Salesianer Miettex and the charitable organisation Caritas.
The pilot project will see Salesianer Miettex collect used textiles that are no longer suitable for reuse and pass them on to ARA before they are delivered to Caritas for manual sorting. Once sorted, textiles will be delivered to Södra for recycling to produce "OnceMore" pulp, using a process developed jointly by Lenzing and Södra. According to Lenzing, this process is the world’s first industrial recycling technology for textile waste made from blended fibres. Lenzing then uses its Refibra technology to produce new lyocell and viscose fibres from the pulp.
"One company cannot solve the pressing problem of textile waste alone. Proactive partnerships such as these allow us to make progress and accomplish real systemic change,” said Sonja Zak, head of textile sourcing & cooperations at Lenzing group. "We are working hard to make our industries more sustainable and promote the transformation of the textile business model from linear to circular. Continued action across the whole sector will be necessary to facilitate this transition.”
ARA has been working for 30 years now to implement extended producer responsibility in Austria, so it made sense to incorporate its expertise into the textile sector, the partners said. "This means that in the future we will be recycling not only packaging, but as many products as possible, including textiles,” added ARA’s CEO Martin Prieler.
Lenzing represented just one link of the value chain for textiles and nonwovens and was reliant on cooperation with partners throughout the entire chain. Partnerships and projects like these would help Lenzing to promote and accelerate systemic change. Lenzing and Södra have reportedly been working together on textile recycling since 2021. Their goal was to develop joint processes to ramp up the use of cellulose-based used textiles on an industrial scale.
OnceMore pulp would then be used as feedstock for the production of Lenzing’s speciality fibres. The aim was to process 25,000 tonnes of textile waste each year by 2027. Along with using pure dissolving wood pulp, these technologies could process a large proportion of recyclable material derived from cutting scraps in cotton production and second-hand clothing.