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A new circular economy concept: from textile waste towards chemical and textile industries feedstock

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - RESYNTEX (A new circular economy concept: from textile waste towards chemical and textile industries feedstock)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2019-05-31

RESYNTEX created a new circular economy concept for the textile and chemical industries and successfully demonstrated the generation of secondary raw materials from textile waste through industrial symbiosis. In particular, the RESYNTEX project:
• created a strategic design for a complete value chain from textile waste collection through to the generation of new feedstock for chemicals and textiles
• identified different post-consumer textile collection approaches and their potential improvement
• increased public awareness of and social involvement with the issue of textile waste
• collected data to evaluate the performance of the new value chains by means of life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC), compared to existing end-of-life scenarios
• developed innovative business models for the chemical and textile industries
• demonstrate an automated sorting and cleaning of textiles as input for biochemical processes as well as a complete reprocessing line for basic textile components, including liquid and solid waste treatment
The project consortium has worked towards the achievement of the following project objectives in accordance with the planned activities and results set in the Grant Agreement:

1) A strategic design of the whole value chain from textile waste collection towards new marketable feedstocks for chemical and textile industries
The team explored the main elements that shape the symbiotic relationship between textile waste collection, the processing and recycling of textile waste and the marketable feedstocks for the chemical and textile industries generated. A validation workshop as well as a symbiosis scenarios report focused on identifying and assessing scenarios for commercially successful and societally impactful textile-chemistry symbiosis within and beyond the RESYNTEX project.

2) Improvement of collection approaches particularly for non-wearable textiles by changing citizens’ behaviour and creating tools for higher social involvement and recycling promotion
Several stakeholder workshops in different European cities have helped to identify different and partly new textile waste streams suitable for the RESYNTEX processes, obstacles towards their collection as well as possible solutions. Furthermore, citizen labs and the mobile application “WhatUWear” gathered information on consumers' attitudes, behaviours, and levels of acceptance related to textile collection and recycling. Finally, industry stakeholder workshops on the RESYNTEX biochemical feedstocks and potential end products brought to the project a) a prioritisation of the most promising applications, products and commercialisation strategies, b) insights into the supply chain and ecosystem in which RESYNTEX can promote the adoption and upscale of its products and c) bilateral conversations about collaborations in the project’s post-H2020 future.

3) Development of a data aggregation system to ensure waste traceability and to provide relevant data for economic and environmental assessment
A data aggregator was developed so that various economic and environmental data generated during the project could be gathered in one place and comprehensive analyses and assessments could be made based on entered data. A business intelligence dashboard included in the aggregator further allows data visualization, incorporates a customizable interface and the ability to pull real-time data from multiple sources.

4) Development of new business models for the RESYNTEX processes and feedstocks
A combination of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) allowed identifying the most promising RESYNTEX recycling routes as well as the main contributors to the impacts and costs of each recycling route. These LCA/LCC results have been combined with key data generated in a number of RESYNTEX work packages and primary and secondary research data a) to define the current market situation, key commercialisation challenges, and the drivers affecting RESYNTEX commercial potential and b) to build demonstrative business scenarios and models that can support strategic and investment decision making as RESYNTEX enters the next phase of optimisation, commercialisation and scaling. Attention was given on demonstrating also alternative product areas that might broaden RESYNTEX's future direction.

5) Automation of the sorting and cleaning of pure and blended textiles, in order to enhance productivity and competitiveness of the recycling process
The development of the textile recognition and the textile decontamination machinery has been completed and a pilot line combining the two processes has been successfully set up at SOEX’s facility in Germany. This pilot demonstrates an automated textile composition identification by infrared-spectroscopy and a mechanical cleaning and size-reduction of pure and blended textiles in a scalable format, which enables the preparation of an adequate textile input to biochemical recycling processes.

6) A new demonstration process based on a synergetic chemical and biotechnological cascading separation and transformation
The most promising chemical and enzymatic depolymerisation routes for protein, cellulose, polyamide and polyester fibres were selected. These highly synergetic recycling routes, including the established residual liquid and solid waste treatment, were eventually demonstrated in the set up and operation of the RESYNTEX biochemical recycling pilot line at IOS, Slovenia.

7) Creation of successful industrial symbiosis and production of new marketable chemicals using the new feedstock from RESYNTEX as reliable and competitive raw materials
The project demonstrated the promising integration of RESYNTEX secondary raw materials into the production of new marketable chemicals for protein fibres as well as for PET fibres (though to a lesser extent). For cellulose fibres, the team realized that the foreseen transformation route of the depolymerized cellulose to bioethanol is currently not viable due to the significant drop of the market price of the latter. Potentially more promising transformation routes, such as a fibre-to-fibre transformation, have been identified. For polyamide (PA) fibres, the project demonstrated the complexity of the recycling process and the low presence of PA in textile waste, which makes the generated secondary raw materials – as matters currently stand – not competitive enough.
RESYNTEX provides a direct contribution to the EU waste directive of 2008 (2008/98/EC) dealing with a unique textile waste recovery technology based on cascading chemical/enzymatic processes to produce secondary feedstock for the chemical/textile industry. The project has provided new insights and approaches on the technology-side and has contributed to a reinforcement of the required eco-industry landscape in Europe. For the former, being able to work on representative textile waste material and numbers directly from textile waste collectors, ensured a technology development close to the real problems. For the later, the involvement of institutional, industry and consumer stakeholders was particularly fruitful. Furthermore, new LCA/LCC and business scenarios analyses contributed to the definition of relevant business models and market replication strategies. The lessons learned and future recommendations from the RESYNTEX project have been summarized in a paper provided to the European Commission.