The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) has announced a series of new government-funded projects centred around textile recycling infrastructure, circular fashion and sustainable manufacturing.
One of the first initiatives, the Autosort for Circular Textiles Demonstrator (ACT UK), is a four million pound project to develop and pilot an automated sorting and pre-processing demonstrator for textile waste.
Over its two-year span, the project hopes to take the industry away from “uneconomic manual sorting” and towards a model that can then be used as feedstock for existing and emerging recycling processes.
For support, ACT UK has brought together a consortium of recycling firms, academia, manufacturers and industry associations, among others, including project partners like Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Pangaia, New Look, Reskinned, Oxfam and Textile Recycling International.
Other partners are expected to join the consortium at a later date.
Furthermore, Act UK said it would build on sorting approaches currently coming to market in the likes of the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.
It ultimately hopes to combine and advance existing and new supporting technologies to overcome barriers to material circularity, including integrating robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and size reduction equipment, all of which will come under one roof and can then be deployed across the UK.
UKFT projects inform legislation and support commercial planning
In a release, CEO of UKFT, Adam Mansell, said: “What happens to our textiles when we no longer need them is a growing problem that we cannot ignore.
“With this ground-breaking project, we’re aiming to create a model to sort and prepare NRT for recycling in a way that’s never been done before, at scale.
“A national system of recycling plants could save 100,000s of tonnes of material from entering landfill. In turn, the system could generate huge volumes of material for use across the UK textile manufacturing sector.”
Other related projects run by UKFT look to build up data, infrastructure and supporting policies to drive circularity in UK textile manufacturing.
This includes the new Circular Fashion Innovation Network, an initiative backed by the British Fashion Council and added to the UKRI Circular Fashion Programme, and the Digital Supply Chain Hub for Textiles, which aims to improve visibility for data flows in waste textiles.
UKFT said that through these projects the organisation was informing legislation and supporting commercial case planning.