Development of recycling and product development solutions for textile waste generated in Estonia

Today, there is a lack of textile waste recycling capacity and technology in Estonia. The annual consumption of new clothing and household textiles in Estonia is around 16 000 tonnes. Today, nearly half of the separately collected clothing and textiles in Estonia (totalling nearly 2,500 tonnes/year) is diverted to landfill. In addition to separately collected clothing and textiles, a large proportion of used clothing is thrown away in mixed municipal waste (around 15 000 tonnes/year). From there, it is already sent for treatment together with mixed municipal waste, which in Estonia is either mass incineration in an incineration plant or landfilling. At the same time, under the EU Waste Directive, all Member States will be obliged from 2025 to separately collect all textile waste generated. 

The aim of the completed project was to find recycling solutions for this separately collected clothing and textile waste. A summary of the results of the completed project in Estonian can be found in the report below:

The results of the study carried out in the project show that approximately 3,300 tonnes of clothing and household textile waste generated in Estonia per year could be quite easily mechanically processed and used as secondary raw material for the production of new products, from a technological and economic perspective. This volume represents about 22% of the amount of clothing and textiles placed on the market annually. The study also clearly showed that there is a lack of solutions and technologies for separate collection and pre-treatment (sorting, cleaning, shredding, polishing) of textile waste in Estonia today.

As a first step in the further mechanical recycling of separately collected textile waste, a primary capacity for pre-treatment needs to be established. However, in order to ensure further recycling of pre-processed fibre pulp, investment is also needed at national level in technologies that enable the creation of new materials from shredded fibre pulp, which in turn can be used to produce new products.

A successful product development process will require investment in equipment and upgrading of existing technologies in materials and product development laboratories. The recycling of textile waste and the related material and product development is an area where new knowledge is needed, and it is therefore important to support research and development in the fields of material development, product development and design.

Project funded by: Keskkonnainvesteeringute Keskus, Ringmajanduseprogramm.

Authors of the report: Harri Moora (SEI Tallinn), Maria Kristiin Peterson (DiMa), Reet Aus (DiMa), Kärt Ojavee (DiMa), Astri Kaljus (Viljandi Kultuuriakadeemia), Tiia Plamus (TalTech).

See more photos from the DiMa exhibition gallery at the XVII Design Night HERE.

The following activities were carried out within
the project:

1. Textile waste analysis, the aim of which was to map the most promising types of textile waste generated in Estonia, which are the easiest to recycle and use in material and product development. The study was carried out by SEI Tallinn.

2. Collection, cleaning of textiles. In cooperation with MTÜ Uuskasutuskeskus, 425 kg of old clothes were collected for the project. These were mechanically shredded and pulled apart into fibers on the Paragon Sleep defibering unit.

Sorting and cleaning of textile waste
Shredding and fiberizing of textile waste

3. Developing new materials from crushed fibre. Material development for nonwovens from crushed fibre pulp was carried out in the Polymers and Textile Technology Laboratory at TalTech. As a result, nonwovens with different compositions, structures and stiffness were produced. The second direction of material development was yarn development, which was carried out in the Vilma wool laboratory of Viljandi Culture Academy and resulted in yarns with four different compositions.

Yarn development from recycled textiles
Development of composite materials from recycled textiles
4. Product development from new materials. The product development process was carried out at the EKA. From the finished nonwovens, hot-pressed composite boards were selected for further processing, from which samples of small furniture were made (designer Argo Tamm). The yarn development resulted in the development of hand knitted fabrics (designer Maria Kristiin Peterson) and seamless knit headwear (designer Reet Aus).

Product development from new materials