The circular economy is booming in the textiles sector.A few important first steps that have been taken so far, as well as (often theoretical) case studies prove this point. However, to date no company in the textiles sector has managed to successfully work all raw materials of a product back into the chain without loss of quality.
Circular economy requires a radical adaptation and companies will have to alter their products, processes, and business models drastically.
With the Circutex project, AVS Spinning NV (European Spinning Group) will conduct research into the challenges and feasibility of the circular economy, as well as the preconditions for the preconditions for setting up a circular production process.
We focus in the first place on a specific textile product, namely mattress fabrics together with Maes Mattress Ticking.
Where current sustainable initiatives are mostly limited to the use of recycled synthetic raw materials such as polyester, we want to completely redevelop mattress fabrics according to a circular model.
Our focus is on a short, local supply chain, the use of recycled and environmentally friendly materials in Europe and the optimization of the production and life cycle according to a series of sustainability parameters.
To make our product successful, we must also consider the expectations of the users (safety, comfort, design ...).
Such new, locally produced textiles could in the long run displace the classic, linear model.
- First, we selected several possible raw materials based on concrete principles within the circular economy, input from the existing market, and concretely tested expectations of customers and end users.
- Based on the chosen raw materials, we developed several proprietary yarns that met our production ambition of a 100% cellulose-based mattress fabric with the highest possible fraction of recycled content.
- With the new yarns, we developed and analysed multiple fabrics and knits. We also researched further circular finishes and technical developments, such as soluble stitching yarns and tracers.
- In a final phase of the project, we conducted an environmental impact study (LCA) and analysed the different end-of-life recycling options.
Key lessons learned
- The most important characteristics of a circular mattress fabric for consumers are price, comfort, appearance, design, quality, longevity, and a clear sustainability story. Those parameters have a major impact on raw material selection, processing, and finishing.
- Several new, sustainable raw materials proved to be insufficiently available or too low in quality to be spun. Furthermore, some sustainable yarns are easy to process, but less strong or more expensive and have a different look and feel. A sustainable mattress fabric remains a conscious choice.
- The results of the environmental impact study indicate that the use of sustainable regenerated cellulose fibers instead of PET can provide important environmental benefits.
- The main end-of-life recycling options for mattress fabrics are mechanical recycling, chemical recycling, and biodegradation.
What will the future bring?
Our partners and ourselves are very satisfied with the results achieved in this project and want to continue working on it. We are continuing to work on our yarns based on the tested recycled materials and once they are ready for industrial production, we will focus on further spin tests and commercialization, both for mattress fabrics and other products.
Discussions with MMT to bring our 100% recycled cotton variant to the market are ongoing. MMT continues to work on the already confirmed inclusions in collections with bedding customers but is also demonstrating our recyclable mattress fabrics to other potential customers.
Furthermore, we will optimize our machinery to obtain a higher percentage of recycled material and we want to we want to focus on the traceability of sustainable collections within the entire value chain.
Finally, we will examine how we can better valorise the end-of-life materials, possibly in consultation with our partner Valumat.
More info on the website of Vlaanderen Circulair (Flanders Circular): https://www.vlaanderen-circulair.be/nl/doeners-in-vlaanderen