A global first for circularity: Södra and Lenzing receive largest EU LIFE subsidy for recycling project

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  • EU funding for textile recycling project on an industrial scale
  • Huge boost to circularity
  • Lenzing and Södra – a long-standing partnership for systemic change

Lenzing/Växjö – The Lenzing Group, a world-leading provider of specialty fibers for the textile and nonwoven industries, has taken another major step towards achieving a circular future together with the Swedish pulp producer Södra. The project will be supported by an EU subsidy of EUR 10 million as part of the LIFE 20221 program to develop the recycling of textile waste on an industrial scale. Under the banner of LIFE TREATS (Textile Recycling in Europe AT Scale)2, both companies are pooling their decades-long experience, knowledge and technology to develop the unique OnceMore® process in this project, which is co-funded by the EU. Lenzing will play a particularly crucial role in this process by deploying its expertise in recycling and its innovative REFIBRA™ technology. This will enable a variety of complex, colored textiles containing a mixture of cotton, polyester and other components including elastane to be processed and recycled in future. This next step, which is due to begin in the second quarter of 2023 and will run for four and a half years, will involve the construction and management of a facility for joint process development, as well as an extension of the OnceMore® process. This will allow 60,000 tonnes of pulp – comprising 50% recycled material and 50% renewable pulp from sustainable forestry – to be produced at Södra’s Swedish plant in Mörrum. Moreover, the joint project will make a significant contribution to the EU’s action plan for circularity, which is supported by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA).

“Today only one percent of the world’s textile waste is recycled, putting an enormous burden on the environment. With the help of this significant funding, Södra and Lenzing are ready to provide one of the main solutions in terms of chemical recycling and become the enabler for the circular textile economy,” says Åsa Degerman, Manager OnceMore® by Södra. “Tackling the problem of textile waste requires a systematic approach, as well as technological solutions on an industrial scale,” says Sonja Zak, Head of Textile Sourcing & Cooperations at the Lenzing Group. “The LIFE TREATS project therefore follows an integrated approach to achieve real change and reduce the negative environmental and social impacts of the textile industry in the EU and beyond,” she adds. “As the first large-scale project of its kind, LIFE TREATS will have a positive influence on the textile industry as a whole, create new circular business opportunities and increase the share of recycled fibers in new clothing,” comments Åsa Degerman, Manager of OnceMore® at Södra.
Forthcoming legislation such as the amendment to the EU’s Waste Framework Directive, in addition to increased user responsibility, the decline in export markets for used textiles and evidence of deteriorating quality in collected textiles point to major changes ahead in the treatment of textile waste. Lenzing and Södra acknowledge and are committed to complying with the waste hierarchy. Their procurement will be limited to the group of materials that cannot be reused in any other way. The project partners’ aim is not to undermine the repurposing of used textiles, but to prevent valuable fiber resources from being sent to landfill or incinerated.

Partnership for systemic change
The transition to a truly circular economy requires collaboration between several parties. Lenzing represents only one part of the textile and nonwoven value chain and supports cooperation between partners across the whole chain. Partnerships and projects such as these help Lenzing to promote and accelerate systemic change. Lenzing and Södra have been working together on textile recycling since 2021, making a crucial contribution to
the promotion of circularity in the fashion industry. In the course of their cooperation, the companies plan to share their knowledge and jointly develop methods to facilitate the broader use of cellulose-based used textiles on an industrial scale. The OnceMore® pulp developed by both companies will then be used for various purposes, including as a raw material for the production of Lenzing’s TENCEL™ branded specialty fibers using REFIBRA™
technology. The aim of LIFE TREATS is to reach an annual processing capacity of 50,000 tonnes of textile waste by 2027. According to Sonja Zak, Head of Textile Sourcing & Cooperations at the Lenzing Group and Åsa Degerman, Manager of OnceMore® at Södra: “This project is a fantastic example of how we can join forces to connect companies along the textile recycling value chain.”

In line with its circular economy vision, “We give waste a new life. Every day”, Lenzing is driving the industry towards achieving a fully-fledged circular economy by endeavoring to give waste a new life in all aspects of its core business. Lenzing has been developing future-proof innovations in recycling for years, including its REFIBRA™ and Eco Cycle technologies. Beside the use of pure dissolving wood pulp, these technologies enable the processing of a large proportion of recycling material that is derived from cutting scraps in cotton production and used textiles.

Bhargav Pathak
Bhargav Pathakhttps://textilesresources.com
With a passion for the textile, apparel, and fashion industry, I embarked on a journey fueled by education from NIFT Gandhinagar and affiliation with NDBI at NID Ahmedabad. Since 2006, I've contributed to various corporate ventures, specializing in B2B, B2C, SaaS, and AI products within the textile domain. In July 2023, I launched TextilesResources.com, a knowledge hub offering the latest news, articles, and soon-to-come features like interviews and a trade fair calendar. Grateful for the growing community, we've recently introduced a Business Directory for enhanced visibility. Join us on LinkedIn and stay connected with the ever-evolving textile landscape!

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