Automated sorting: key to achieving a textile circular economy
according to the various types of fibers they contain requires a high degree of precision. It is currently done manually, but the result doesn’t meet the requirements of recycling companies and the fashion industry. As a result, only a small quantity of discarded textiles is recycled and the potential for increasing it is enormous. The SIPTex project is exploring how to achieve the required quality through automation.
Testing the technology on textiles
The plant in Malmö is the third phase in the SIPTex project, and follows an initial theoretical study and, in phase two, the construction of a small pilot plant in Avesta, also designed and supplied by TOMRA and STADLER in 2017. In this second phase, the project collected 700 tonnes of used textiles from recycling centers. Following a manual pre-sorting of reusable textiles, the waste material was fed into the Avesta pilot plant.
The main objective was to test the equipment’s capability to sort the textiles and identify any changes or optimizations to the process that may be required. “As automated textile sorting had never been done before, we were facing a challenging task we could only overcome by joining forces. Thus, we relied on our longstanding and close partnership with STADLER and our both expertise and equipment. For the Avesta pilot we supplied AUTOSORT®
NIR VIS sorter, then four more for the Malmö plant”, explains László Székely, VP Head of Plastic Applications at TOMRA.
STADLER International Sales Manager Urban Kozinc further explains: “Working on this pilot plant we have understood that the feeding system is very important, that the hoppers and chutes need a special design because of the size of the textile material, and that the conveyors needed special belts. We also had to find the way to achieve a constant material flow, without peaks. And we learned that labelling on the textiles is not always 100% correct.” In this phase of the project TOMRA and STADLER gained the knowledge needed for the third phase, the Malmö industrial-scale plant.