Closing the loop with cutting-edge technology

Clothing is manufactured, used and finally disposed of. This linear “take-make-waste” model of the textile industry has far-reaching consequences. Less than 1% of garments are recycled in a closed-loop system. After the use phase, only this quantity is processed into equivalent products or used to manufacture other products.

Preserving the value of raw materials

The most common process used in textile recycling is mechanical recycling. It has been used for decades. In this process, textiles are broken down into smaller fragments, and finally into fibers, before being spun into new yarns. This process results in a high amount of short fibers. The challenge is to meet the requirements on yarn quality, despite the high amount of short fibers.

Ring spinning and compact spinning are the predominant spinning technologies for standard yarns worldwide with a very wide range of applications. Short fibers pose a challenge for these technologies because they impair quality. Rieter’s aim is to also achieve good quality for ring or compact yarns made from recycled material.

In terms of its functionality, rotor spinning is well suited for applications that use materials with short fibers. Rieter has continuously developed and optimized this technology. 

Recycling classification system

Rieter has introduced a recycling classification system. It is available on the market. Classification according to this system makes it easier for spinning mills to realistically assess their production targets depending on the fiber material used. After the tearing process, short fiber content, average fiber length and 5% long fibers are important parameters. These make it possible to determine the most suitable process, achievable yarn evenness and possible degree of fineness.

Sustainable or recycled fibers

An alternative to mechanical recycling is the processing of yarns that have been produced or recycled in a chemically sustainable manner. Demand for such yarns is expected to increase sharply in the coming years. The Rieter Group supports customers in developing new yarns on this basis, as the following two examples show.

Developing sustainable yarns with Spinnova

Rieter is supporting the Finnish company Spinnova in the development of a sustainable textile fiber that requires no harmful chemicals, uses 99% less water and produces 72% less CO2 than conventional cotton. Spinnova is putting in place an in-house research and development spinning line equipped with Rieter machines that will soon be installed.

Eastman – less CO2 and water, from tree to fiber

The US specialty chemicals company Eastman also received support from Rieter in the development of a new staple fiber to be used in textile applications. The fiber, called Naia, is manufactured from pulp sourced from sustainably cultivated pine and eucalyptus forests. This is produced in a closed-loop process in which solvents are recycled back into the system for reuse. No hazardous chemicals are used here. The manufacturing process is characterized by a low CO2 and water footprint from tree to fiber. Combined with certified biodegradability, this results in a sustainable solution for yarn production.

Working together for the circular economy

Rieter participated in the “Texcircle” research project of Innosuisse, the Swiss agency for the promotion of innovation. Led by Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the research team explored and developed opportunities for a circular economy in the textile industry. Rieter and five other Swiss companies worked together on a closed-loop value chain that aims to generate high-quality, marketable product prototypes.

The conversion of the textile value chain in accordance with the principles of the circular economy has begun. As a technology leader, Rieter will play a key role in the conversion process.

The Circular Economy - A Definition

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a leading think tank in this sector, estimates that if the trend remains the same, over 150 million tons of garments will be discarded or incinerated annually by 2050.

In a “circular economy”, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, materials are recycled any number of times, waste and pollution are avoided, and nature is regenerated. The Rieter Group continues to develop recycling technologies and expertise to support the textile industry on this route.