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Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-09-30

Tons of fabrics used for clothing applications are produced each year in Europe by yarn spinning (ring and rotor spinning techniques) combining natural fibres (such as cotton or wool) and synthetic fibres (such as polyester), being 40-70% of them natural fibres, followed by the weaving of these yarns. Blends of natural fibres and synthetics are generally prepared to improve comfort and durability aspects of the end products. However, these standard fabrics are complex to recycle after their use since both types of fibres are intermingled and cannot be separated again.
Companies in textile industry are challenged to make a radical shift towards innovative and high added value products to counter the competition with low-wage countries. At the same time European industry is looking for links with the environment-concerned customers via the increased use of renewable and recyclable/recycled materials. Cost is not a major limitation, because fabric represents a percentage of less than 4% of final clothing cost in case wool material is used in a conventional proportion (about 50%)
Additionally, these new PLA based fabrics offer novel disposal routes after use due to the biodegradable character of all components.
FIBFAB aims to industrialize biodegradable and sustainable polylactic acid (PLA) based fabrics (wool/PLA-cotton/PLA) for clothing, and to overcome current limitations of PLA fibres as a real alternative to current fabrics (wool and cotton combined with polyester fibres).
During this period, technical work was focused on the industrialization of the selected formulations using different additives to increase the thermal, mechanical and hydrolytic stabilization properties of the commercial PLA. Other properties, such as shrinkage after washing at high temperature and dying capacity has been also studied.
After the study of the processability of the compounds developed to obtain staple fibres at pilot plant level, the most promising formulation has been obtained in industrial facilities. This material has been mixed with cotton and wool to obtain fabrics at industrial level.
A production of final clothes as T-shirts to be distributed in fairs and exhibitions to know the customer opinion has been an important activity during this last period of the project.
Beyond the state of the art, FIBFAB aims to use the knowledge acquired in textiles for other applications to produce fibres for garments applications with the suitable thermal, mechanical and processing properties for clothing sector and cost-competitive fabrics.
Results obtained:
• Optimization of PLA formulation and staple fibres extrusion process to obtain bio-based fibres at industrial level with the established requirements.
• Both biodegradable textile products, wool/PLA and cotton/PLA, has been obtained by wool and cotton spinning technology and further warping, weaving, knitting, dyeing and finishing at industrial level. Both products have been validated to verify that functional characteristics remain stable throughout the production cycle.
• A complete Life Cycle Analysis and an economic analysis.
• Several dissemination and exploitation activities have been done, and a Business Plan for the market replication and commercialisation of the products.
As potential impacts of the project, FIBFAB fibres will reduce the dependence of Asian countries (mainly producers of PES fibres) and will improve the competitivity of the European textile sector by creating a new concept of clothing that fits the expectations of customers with high ecological awareness.
Therefore, FIBFAB will enhance the competitiveness and growth of the 2 business partners (YUNSA, SINTEX), offering a competitive advantage through the expertise achieved and by taking the lead in market development and introduction.
Remark that YUNSA and SINTEX products (yarns and fabrics) are widely known in the textile sectors, so it is expected a fast introduction in the market, constituting their main advantage to gain market share. They already have an established market niche and trademarks. In addition, the support from committed early adopters will constitute their entry door to the targeted FIBFAB market.
The new FIBFAB trademark will be protected as well as the results of this project through patents or utility models.
On the other hand, it is expected an environmental impact. The consumer is more and more conscious of the environmental foot-print of the industrial processes and products. Nowadays there is a new trend in the consumers, which are looking for environmentally friendly garments and, specific industrial market is pulling innovation because of that, but also because of European regulations.
Main competitive challenges for the EU industry remain such as the adjustment to be flexible, sustainable and remain competitive, so clothing sector needs to adapt to standards related to energy and environmental concerns. FIBFAB will contribute to achieve the goals of the following Directives:
1) CO2 emission reductions: The EC committed itself to achieve a significant reduction in CO2 emissions in the coming years. FIBFAB will increase the use of materials from renewable materials instead of petrol-based, due to the lower energy needs (40.2 MJ/kg for PLA and 78.2 MJ/kg for PES) and will lead to reduce emission of greenhouse gases (PLA 0.7 kg CO2 eq/kg and PES 2.2 kg CO2 eq/kg). Based on the production of 1,000 t/year of PLA, we expect a reduction of 1,500t CO2 eq. So, FIBFAB will reduce the environmental footprint of the current clothing products by offering more sustainable products.
2) Contributing to the EU Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC, which aims to reduce the amount of plastic waste going to landfills. Member states are required to reduce these amounts by 65% by 2015. However, 10 million tonnes (38% of the total) of post-consumer plastic were wasted in landfill, so the introduction of a material 100% from renewable resources that can be recycled or can be composted to produce a fertiliser for crops, and which, if landfilled, is biodegradable without residue, will contribute to improve waste management indicators.
3) Horizon 2020 policy objectives: This project produces environmentally friendly products contributing towards sustainability.
4) Europe 2020 is a 10-year strategy proposed by the European Commission on March 3, 2010 with the aim of stabilizing the European economy after the global economic crisis and setting out a vision for Europe's social market economy for the 21st century. The Europe 2020 agenda puts forward three mutually reinforcing priorities: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. FIBFAB contribute to all of them.
5) Green Public Procurement. Fulfil the requirements to sale FIBFAB products under GPP umbrella.
6) FIBFAB aims to cover most of the key objectives of the Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda (SIRA) published in 2013 by the Bio-Based Industries consortium.
7) The turnover of the total bioeconomy in the EU-28 results in €2.1 trillion in 2013. A quarter of the turnover is created by the so-called bio-based industries (such as chemicals and plastics, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, forest-based industries, textile sector, biofuels and bioenergy). The total turnover of the textiles industries reached €72 billion in 2013.
FIBFAB consortium has been working of the ecolabel accreditation (OEKO-TEX®) to prove their products superior environmental performances.