A year ago, SCIRT organized its interim event in Tourcoing and presented first results and insights to the interested audience. So much has happened since, which we happily share with you in this update. 

One year later…. 

Over the last twelve months, a lot of work was dedicated to the further technological developments aimed at automated sorting and dismantling. The Fibersortautomatic sorting machine was further improved in both speed and accuracy: uninterrupted feeding has been facilitated by the three-bales buffer; improved pre-sorting was further optimised; the robot picker for feeding the sorter has been made more robust; and the accuracy of the software has been improved for both fibre types as well as colour identification.  

Automated dismantling research was split in the project into two strands: one strand focusing on big volumes of sorted textiles being processed at higher speed, and one strand targeting high value, accurate dismantling. For the first, a working machine, called Trimclean was developed and deployed in combination with Fibersort for sorting and pre-treating the feedstock required for the SCIRT demonstrators. 

The pilot scale mechanical recycling and spinning trials were finalised. The results of which were key for the different brands to assess the feasibility of the described demonstrators to be produced. Over the past months, an important step was to transfer the knowledge and know-how from the pilot to the industrial scale. This scaling up was realised by intense collaboration between SCIRT partners, with the inevitable setbacks now and then. Today, we are very proud to say that we’ve managed, on an industrial scale, to produce yarn with a minimum of 50% recycled content from post-consumer textiles, respecting the quality requirements and specifications as defined. On the industrial scale, the highest recycled content achieved is 75% recycled cotton for denim (with Tencel) and sweaters (with Lyocell). In the next months, yarns will be knitted or woven, and garments will be produced.  

After the successful work in developing a quick, easy and reliable detection method for elastane, SCIRT partners were also able to define and prove a method to remove elastane using non-hazardous solvent, while keeping other polymers (such as PET, PA66) intact. Besides this research, SCIRT partners also focused further on the search for an elastane alternative, using thermomechanical processes. 

An integral aspect of the SCIRT project involves considering the expectations and perceptions of the general public regarding recycled textiles. In pursuit of this objective, four citizen labs were conducted—two in urban and rural areas of France and two in urban and rural areas of Belgium. This deliberate geographic diversity aimed to unveil potential variations in perceptions based on location, age, and gender. In the citizen labs, the comprising participants from these workshops, played a pivotal role in providing valuable insights into their consumer preferences. Their contributions have significantly enhanced the SCIRT project’s understanding of purchasing behaviour concerning recycled materials. Building on the success of the Citizen Labs, the SCIRT project is committed to sustaining this crucial stakeholder engagement. Hence in 2024, we plan to further our interaction with key stakeholders through user board events. These events will bring together key players from the textile industry, fostering collaborative discussions and insights that will continue to shape the project’s direction and outcomes.  

With the intention to continue this communication with the public on a broader scale,  

the SCIRT Virtual tool was created. The tool enables the users to get themselves familiarised with the fashion world, find out different facts about the textile industry and provide their honest and anonymous input on their shopping habits. The SCIRT online tool was designed with the intention to raise awareness about the fashion industry and its impact on the environment as well as gather information on the level of knowledge an average citizen possesses regarding this fascinating topic and provide guidelines on what each individual can do to help make the future more sustainable. Another way that SCIRT achieved raising awareness about the industry and the project itself was in the feature on the Belgium channel, Kanaal Z. In the clip, you can find the SCIRT coordinator, Evelien Dils, and Xandres CEO Patrick Desrumaux, speaking about the fashion industry and the project, more specifically the True Cost Tool development. 

The project further reinforced its collaborations within the textile sustainability industry. First, SCIRT joined the ECOSYSTEX community, a European community of practice for a sustainable textile ecosystem. SCIRT also teamed up with projects in the industry. The New Cotton Project, which will finish in 2024, featured SCIRT in its MOOC series for broadening circular knowledge and close industrial loops in the textile industry. VITO addressed the fine balance between regulations and the stakeholder in a circular fashion system. The year also saw a collaboration with the T-REX project, where a four-part webinar series began to help navigate the transformations taking place in the European textile landscape and highlight how relationships between different players can be nurtured and strengthened to move towards an effective circular supply chain. The last session is available on LinkedIn, while the next two webinars will be announced in 2024, as will the dates of another webinar series on the tests that have been conducted in the project, including recycling chemical and mechanical recycling, fibre separation, chemicals of concern and preparation of feedstock.  

What’s up next? 

As the project enters its last year, many results will be visible to the public and each partner’s work will help to better understand the industry, the current and future needs as well as the major advances that will come from working together in SCIRT.  

Some early outputs from SCIRT to look out for in the coming weeks include the webinar series on design and testing of recycling methods. Six webinars are planned and will cover the following topics: enzymatic recycling, mechanical recycling, preparation of feedstock, elastane separation and chemicals of concern. From February 8th and April 18th, you can expect a SCIRT webinar going live every other week.  

Also coming up, is Valvan opening its doors to launch the Fibersort and Trimcleam machines. They will let stakeholders and the public enter their facilities to see their machines working in real time. More information will follow soon. 

Keep an eye out for our communications on upcoming opportunities and news, such as the date of our final event in the fall, through our socials and website to join us along the way!