One of the biggest environmental concerns regarding textiles is that most of them are difficult to recycle once they reach the end of their use. This is because these materials typically contain a variety of types of fibers, quality levels, and colors, which makes sorting difficult on an industrial level. As such, the bulk of textile waste ends up in landfills or incinerators. That, however, may soon change.
Thanks to a new partnership, discarded clothing that’s typically considered unrecyclable will now be given a new lease of life in the form of high-quality, recycled textile. Dubbed Fibers Unsorted, the innovation comes from design studio Envisions, which has recently partnered with engineering company Imat-Uve for the project.
The recycled textile is essentially a technical fabric that consists of mixed-fiber clothing which has been diverted from landfills to be processed into a durable fabric that’s high-quality enough to be used for car interiors.
“The challenge that Fibers Unsorted set was to develop a quality yarn out of the big waste streams of textile that are still today only down-cycled into a poor insulation material or get burned or end up in a landfill,” Envisions director Sanne Schuurman told Dezeen. “We need to keep this resource as long as possible in its cycle and extend its lifetime to create valuable products out of it.”
An important component in the production process of the new recycled material is Imat-Uve’s unweaving technique, which carefully separates the fibers in a piece of clothing without damaging their quality. The fibers are then spun into high-quality yarns.
According to Dezeen, the technique can use almost all types of garments, filtering out only around 15 percent of fibers, usually because they are too short to make a quality yarn. In addition to efficiency, the method requires no chemical process, making it more sustainable than other similar initiatives. Once the yarn is ready, Envisions then proceeds to refine it by developing it into textiles with various textures, patterns, and colors.
The resulting material could then be applied in the automotive industry or find use in furniture design, upholstery, and flooring. The design studio displayed the textile innovation at Dutch Design Week in 2021.