Sulzer partners with H&M Group and Worn Again Technologies in developing technology for closed-loop recycling for textiles

Sulzer Worn Again Technologies

Sulzer partners with H&M Group and Worn Again Technologies in developing technology for closed-loop recycling for textiles

By: Sulzer

Sulzer Chemtech’s division president elected Chairman of Worn Again Technologies

More and more fabrics end up in landfills, making textile waste one of society’s pressing environmental issues. Because of the complexity of garments’ production, chemical recycling techniques have only been applied to a minor share of end-of-use textiles and clothing so far. As the major technology partner for UK-based Worn Again Technologies, a company majority owned by Sulzer and H&M Group, Sulzer brings in its expertise with a new technology to recycle old textiles back into reusable textiles, thus enabling circularity. The teams will now engineer a demonstration plant and further scale-up this novel closed-loop recycling process with a planned output of 1000 tons per year.

Sulzer and H&M Group are strategic partners of Worn Again Technologies, an early stage technology company based in the UK. Building on its long standing expertise in separation, mixing and polymerization technologies, Sulzer will provide the equipment and technology at the heart of Worn Again’s Technologies unique closed-loop textile recycling process, converting textiles at their end of use back into virgin-like raw materials thus enabling circularity for millions of tons of garments usually ending up in landfills or incinerators. Today, more than 60 million tons of natural and synthetic textile fibers for clothing are produced per year, of which 73% is incinerated or landfilled according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Following on the successful launch of a Worn Again Technologies’ research and development (R&D) pilot plant, Sulzer’s Chemtech experts will be supporting Worn Again Technologies in designing and building a larger demonstration facility. This new facility will convert used cotton and polyester garments into polyester pellets and cellulosic pulp that can then be re-spun into new fibers.

The vast majority of garments currently produced are made of mixed cotton and polyester fibers, where sustainable production is increasingly challenged. Cultivation of cotton is linked to the use of huge amounts of water necessary for its growth and polyesters are associated with non-recyclable waste. Current technologies to recycle textile fibers back into virgin-quality fibers are almost non-existent. It is estimated that only 1% of clothing is recycled into new garments because these rather complex products contain various type of fibers, dyes, fillers and additives, making them difficult to recycle.

Sulzer Worn Again Technologies (1)The process developed by Worn Again Technologies tackles this issue by utilizing selective dissolution. Thanks to its extensive expertise in separation technology, Sulzer can provide the customized distillation, extraction and polymer solutions that are at the heart of this new textile upcycling process. At the same time, Sulzer’s experience in plant engineering is accelerating the speed of commercialization for this pioneering upcycling process.

Torsten Wintergerste, Division President of Chemtech, comments: “I am honored by the trust Worn Again Technologies and H&M Group have shown me to become chairman of the board. Sulzer is highly committed to lead the development of sustainable processes by leveraging our extensive experience in separation technology. This is why we are happy to be the technology expert for Worn Again and support its vision to eradicate textile waste and get to a world where resources are kept in constant circulation. We look forward to seeing our key technologies in operation at this new recycling facility as well as collaborating on future circular projects.”

Sulzer helps forward-looking businesses in a variety of industries reduce their environmental impact, to date encompassing industries such as the energy sector, plastic packaging, steel manufacturing as well as textiles.

This document may contain forward-looking statements including, but not limited to, projections of financial developments, market activity, or future performance of products and solutions containing risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements are subject to change based on known or unknown risks and various other factors that could cause actual results or performance to differ materially from the statements made herein.

About Sulzer
Sulzer is a global leader in fluid engineering. We specialize in pumping, agitation, mixing, separation and application technologies for fluids of all types. Our customers benefit from our commitment to innovation, performance and quality and from our responsive network of 180 world-class manufacturing facilities and service centers across the globe. Sulzer has been headquartered in Winterthur, Switzerland, since 1834. In 2019, our 16’500 employees delivered revenues of CHF 3.7 billion. Our shares are traded on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SIX: SUN).

The Chemtech division is the global market leader in innovative mass transfer, static mixing and polymer solutions for petrochemicals, refining, LNG, biopolymers and biofuels. Our product offering ranges from process components to complete separation process plants, including licensing. Customer support covers engineering services and field services to tray and packing installation, tower maintenance, welding and plant turnaround projects.

About Worn Again Technologies

Worn Again Technologies is a technology licensing company that is developing unique polymer recycling processes that will enable raw materials in textiles and polyester packaging to be kept in constant circulation, driving economic, social and environmental benefits. The technology has been developed to support the shift from linear supply chains to a circular system where raw materials are recycled, reducing the use of the worlds finite resources. The company has valued strategic investors including H&M Group, Sulzer, Himes Corporation and Directex, as well as the support of influential brands and partners, such as Kering, ASICS Europe, Sympatex, Dibella and Dhana.

In recent years, Worn Again Technologies has been part of the movement to develop the circular economy. The company has benefited from engagement with many parts of the industry, including grant funding, and direct collaboration with the Fashion for Good scaling program, Cradle to Cradle (C2C) initial certified outputs, and EU-Interreg funded Fibersort textile sorting project. Worn Again Technologies is proud to have received the ANDAM Innovation Prize, and to recognized by PCIAW as an Outstanding Contribution to the Textile Industry.

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