From new materials to anti-virus coating and an upcoming Nordic recycling hub – Finland offers new solutions to textile industry challenges
Textile industry has a huge impact on the environment and new sustainable solutions are needed for each stage of a textile’s life cycle. Available raw materials are not meeting growing needs for textile fibers and at the same time, millions of tons of textile waste are burned or end up in landfills. Finland is leading the revolution towards sustainable materials and business models in the international textile business.
The production and consumption of textiles causes significant environmental, climate and social impacts due to the vast amounts of water, land, pesticides and chemicals used as well as the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants caused by the industry. The currently available raw materials cannot meet the constantly growing demand for fibers and textiles. At the same time, on a global scale, an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste is produced every year of which 75-85% is either burned or ends up in landfills.*
Finland offers groundbreaking solutions and knowhow at every level of the sustainable textile ecosystem from textile waste handling, treatment, B2B & B2C sales and usage, collection and recycling to identification and back to waste handling.
Leading Finnish experts are Rester, NordShield®, Emmy, Spinnova and Infinited Fiber Company which offer Finnish innovations across the textile ecosystem.
“By replacing primary raw materials with recycled components or using, for example, wood-based textile fiber, and by keeping already existing materials in the economy as long as possible, we have the opportunity to impact the huge global system and value chains,” says Marika Ollaranta, Head of the Bio and Circular Finland program from Business Finland, Finland’s trade, investment and travel promotion and innovation funding organization. “Finnish innovations offer revolutionary solutions that cover the whole life cycle of a textile. Governments, consumers and the industry itself are waking up to the challenges of a very single-use oriented industry, but more work is needed to build awareness and change mindsets and behaviour to make the cycle more sustainable, while also maintaining the level of quality and reasonable costs.”
Rester collaborates closely with Southwest Finland’s municipal waste management company LSJH in a project that brings together the private and public sectors in textile waste handling.
From waste handling to a textile’s physical features, NordShield®’s patented technology enables natural antimicrobial treatment of textiles, free of heavy metals.
Spinnova and Infinited Fiber Company have come up with innovative ways of making fiber out of wood pulp and discarded textiles, while Emmy Clothing Company has created a transparent resale-as-a-service for clothes, which makes it possible for all actors in the ecosystem to participate in prolonging a textile’s life cycle.
New materials to meet growing demand for textiles: New fibers that are recyclable to begin with
Finnish textile company Spinnova makes fiber directly from wood pulp or pulp made of side streams without dissolving and the use of harmful chemicals. The manufacture of sustainable textile fiber made with Spinnova’s method creates 0% waste or side streams, 0% microplastics and has minimal CO2 emissions and water use. The company just recently announced the opening of the first commercial scale SPINNOVA® production facility in Finland together with the world’s largest wood pulp producer Suzano. Spinnova’s sustainable fiber will be available for global textile brands in 2022.
“We want to help fill the textile industry’s sustainability deficit by making cellulose-based materials cost-efficient, environmentally friendly and preferred option for brands. Replacing cotton with the patented SPINNOVA® fiber could have a significant impact on the whole value chain by reducing the emissions and use of water,” says Spinnova’s Head of Communications Emmi Berlin. Spinnova’s collaboration with iconic design house Marimekko has been recognized in the Sustainability category in Fast Company’s 2020 Innovation by Design Awards.
Finnish biotechnology company Infinited Fiber Company is known for technology that can turn discarded textiles into a premium regenerated textile fiber, called Infinna™. Infinna has the soft and natural look and feel of cotton and it offers a circular alternative to less sustainable conventional textile fibers that rely on virgin raw materials. The company was recently listed on the 2021 Global Cleantech 100 list.
“Infinited Fiber’s technology is not dependent on a single raw material but offers a way to create value out of multiple waste streams while reducing pressure on natural resources, land and water. The technology can be fed with a range of cellulose-rich raw materials to create unique textile fibers with the natural look and feel of cotton and superior properties. The created fibers have natural antimicrobial properties, they are biodegradable, contain no microplastics, and can be recycled together with other textile waste,” says Petri Alava, cofounder and CEO of Infinited Fiber Company.
Infinited Fiber Company is also leading the EU-funded New Cotton Project, a consortium of brands, manufacturers, suppliers, innovators and research institutes that is breaking new ground by demonstrating an entirely circular model for commercial garment production. This is a world first in the fashion industry. Over a three-year period, textile waste will be collected, sorted and regenerated into Infinited Fiber Company’s unique, cellulose-based textile fibers which will be used to create different types of fabrics for clothing designed, manufactured and sold by global brand Adidas and companies in the H&M Group.
A physical armor against COVID-19?
Finnish biotechnology company NordShield® has created natural-based antimicrobial technology that works against bacteria, fungi and viruses (including human corona viruses). It is free of heavy metals and instead harnesses the ancient power of Nordic forests. In its various forms, the technology can be applied to textiles and fibers as well as medical devices, plastics and even skin.
“The power of nature is the power of NordShield®. We want to eliminate the usage of non-sustainable, non-renewable and toxic ingredients in antimicrobial protection. By offering a superior alternative to the existing antimicrobial products, we are making a positive impact on the world and making the new normal as safe as possible. Our technology minimizes the chemical load on the environment and is also cost-competitive,” says NordShield®’s CEO Kristoffer Ekman.
The revolutionary NordShield® Brilliant technology can be applied to a variety of products, such as for sanitizing hands, feet, surfaces and even community face masks. Tests conducted in December 2020 and January 2021 confirm NordShield® Brilliant’s long-lasting efficacy for up to five weeks. Before the market entry of NordShield® Brilliant products, disinfectants have used alcohol as the active substance to eliminate microbes and germs. However, the effect of alcohol is short-lived; after it has evaporated, typically in a matter of seconds, the treated surface or skin is exposed to contamination again. NordShield® Brilliant products contain alcohol for the immediate kill effect, but the long-lasting efficacy is derived from its disruptive technology that is based on a unique layer that does not evaporate but forms a physical, armor-like barrier on the treated surface.
Less waste: Getting more wear out of our clothes
Emmy Clothing Company is a leading Nordic online marketplace for pre-owned premium clothing. The webstore enables consumers, apparel retailers and fashion brands to easily and efficiently resell, discover and buy high-quality fashion, with complete transparency regarding quality, availability and delivery options. With a focus on quality, all the items are hand-inspected and authenticity-checked. Emmy also provides consumers and partners a fully transparent service toward textile reuse, and valuable information on apparel quality as well as the apparel’s impact on the environment.
“Extending the clothing lifecycle is our mission. The most sustainable way is to use the clothing in its original form. We want to offer our customers a fun, effortless and rewarding way to recycle clothes,” says Emmy’s CMO Taru Marjamaa.
Waste management & recycling: The Nordics’ first large-scale end-of-life textile refinement plant opens in Finland this summer
Responding to the growing issues of textile waste, new textile recycling regulations will come into force in the EU in 2025. However, Finland aims to start the process already by 2023.
Rester, together with LSJH, is opening a textile refinement plant in Paimio, Finland, that will refine end-of-life textiles into raw material fiber that can be used in new products. The plant could become one of the biggest textile refinement plants in Northern Europe, making Finland one of the Nordics’ recycling hubs. The plant’s two production lines will process post-consumer textiles from households and pre-consumer textiles from the B2B sector. At its launch, the plant will process 12,000 tonnes of end-of-life textiles annually. The plan is to scale up the volume in the future to double the capacity.
“There has been a lot of interest towards the new plant and we are very excited to be the forerunner in the systemic change of the textile industry. Our goal is to guarantee the quality of the recycled fiber, optimize the material to meet the customers’ needs and ensure the best possible product performance by further development of the fiber. Our vision is to build an eco-community, Green Field Hub, in Paimio, and create a closed loop system that enables the reuse and recycling of textiles at scale, together with the other actors in the ecosystem,” says Outi Luukko, CEO of Rester.
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PR & Media Manager, Business Finland
Head of Bio and Circular Finland Program, Business Finland
About Business Finland
Business Finland is the Finnish innovation funding, trade, investment, and travel promotion organization, headquartered in Helsinki. Business Finland is part of the Team Finland network. www.businessfinland.com