The Fibersort is a technology able to automatically sort large volumes of mixed post-consumer textiles based on fiber composition. These sorted materials are perfectly suited to become inputs for textile recycling processes, and commercialisation of the Fibersort will bring closed-loop textiles one step closer to reality.
On March 14th, Smart Fibersorting in Wormerveer, Netherlands opened their doors to the public to demonstrate the Fibersort technology in action. It was the first time the project partners Smart Fibersorting, Valvan Baling Systems, Reshare, Worn Again Technologies, Procotex and Circle Economy demonstrated the unique sorting technology to the industry. Demo Day aimed to show the world the project’s accomplishments so far, gather valuable feedback and openly discuss the challenges and opportunities for the textiles industry to further close the gap toward circularity.
Industry insights: There is a need to develop more end markets for non-rewearable post-consumer textiles
Using post-consumer textiles as recycling inputs is an important focus area. To get the brand perspective on this, Demo Day featured an industry panel to provide insight into how Fibersort will support the use of these materials as inputs for high-value textile-to-textile recycling. Ellen Mensink of Brightloops (white label producer | own label Loop.a life), Hélène Smits of Recover and Antonio Roade of Circle Economy discussed the challenges of textile-to-textile recycling using post-consumer textile inputs and how the Fibersort makes this goal more achievable. The overall consensus was:
- Existing recycled products that meet performance expectations should be more widely used
- More research and testing will improve the quality of recycled textiles that are currently available
- Having homogenized post-consumer feedstocks, provided by the Fibersort, will facilitate an increase in the use of post-consumer textiles as recycling inputs
Restricted chemicals list (RSL) and chemical safety issues were also discussed, and it is clear more research should be done on these topics.
Fibersort can detect 14 unique fibre compositions
The Fibersort is currently programmed to detect and sort 14 different materials, including pure fibres and blends. The Fibersort consortium is evaluating the performance of the machine based on how accurately these fibres are detected and how productively the machine operates.
Transparency is often touted as being a fundamental step in circular development, and Maurtis Vandeputte from Valvan Baling Systems showed just how committed Valvan is to transparency as they develop the Fibersort technology. The throughput accuracy of the machine calculates the amount of materials detected and sorted. Maurits shared that Fibersort is programmed to detect roughly 80% of all materials. However, phase 1 testing showed that 40% of all materials processed are not being detected. Trials completed in the past week have shown improvement, and we will provide more details in the upcoming Fibersort Performance Report.
The sorted fraction accuracy figures calculate the amount of correctly sorted materials in each bin. The accuracy was calculated based on label checks and will be validated through lab testing. The lab validated accuracy of the 14 fractions, including blends, will be released in the upcoming Fibersort Performance Report. Sign up here to receive the report before the public!
Target productivity for the machine is one piece per second. Operators are able to achieve this speed during their shift after a “warm up” period and when materials arrive at the machine untangled and easy to pick up one item at a time. One piece per second is a limitation of a human operator, as the scanning time is only a few milliseconds.
Moving forward, the team will improve the machine’s ability to sort more of the non-rewearables that pass through it and capture more value from these textiles. In the coming months, development will also be focused on improving accuracy within the individual 14 sorting categories. Beyond that, the team aims to add new functions such as colour sorting.
Recycling trails are currently being conducted with partner recycling companies Procotex and Worn Again Technologies. Reshare is currently working to develop the business case for automated fibre sorting technologies, which will also be discussed in future posts.
We are continually gathering information to guide the development of the Fibersort, help build end markets for post-consumer textiles and create a circular industry. You can write the future.
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