The accumulation of textile waste is a global challenge that requires efficient recycling solutions, as it is estimated that less than 1% of textile waste is currently being recycled as a secondary textile raw material. Textiles have been identified as a priority product category for the circular economy by the European Commission, which in 2022 has also published the “EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles”, addressing the overall sustainability and circularity of the textile sector. Among the major issues in implementing a systemic approach to sustainable and safe circularity there are the insufficient control over available material flows, the lack of defined requirements on recycled raw materials, and labelling systems for new materials and standards not keeping up with technological developments.
To deal with such challenges, the project tExtended aims to introduce an innovative approach to the cycling of discarded textiles with the development of a Blueprint, a knowledge-based masterplan for the optimized cycling for different textile flows. The Blueprint will define the implementation of a circular textile ecosystem including reduction of waste, extended reuse of textile products and efficient material recycling of end-of-life textiles. We also develop wide range of digital and technological solutions enabling the replicability of the tExtended solutions in different European regions, especially business opportunities emerging from circular systems and innovations that are environmentally and socially sustainable.
The development of the final Blueprint will include these steps:
- The development of the Conceptual Framework, consisting of: textile waste classification based on identified material quality and properties, requirements of intended industrial end-use, economical aspects, environmental impacts of textile waste valorization and recycling processes;
- The testing of the Framework within an Industrial-Urban symbiosis collaborative real scale demonstrator, aiming to show its potential to reduce textile waste by 80 %, and the study of the demonstrator’s replication potential in different regions.
In tExtended the focus is on future sustainable textile ecosystem consisting of the whole textile life cycles, from textile manufacturing to use and reuse, until the end-of-life solutions. The capability of the circular textile ecosystem to utilize the waste as efficiently as possible, taking into consideration the environmental, economic, and societal constraints, requires seamless collaboration among all actors involved. tExtended aims to provide the whole textile ecosystem with the necessary digital solutions to collect and utilize data and data-driven solutions to support real-time decision-making, to improve specific phases of the recycling system.
To develop the solutions, tExtended will also involve local community actors, whose participation assures the feasibility of the model and the continued flow of second-hand textile material. By increasing the consumers’ participation in pre-sorting and returning used textiles, the project will raise their awareness about the sustainability and circularity of textiles. tExtended will test models to realize a high local collection and sale, in order to increase the popularity of second-hand textiles.
The knowledge produced with tExtended on circular economy applied to the textile industry will generate new business and strengthen competitiveness and resilience through sustainability and digitalization, thus accelerating the green and digital transformation in the European textile industry.
Led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the tExtended consortium includes 20 partners, representing 10 different European countries. Among them there are experts of textile industry, circular economy, digitalization and data management, waste management and recycling, as well as sustainability.