Resortecs unveils technology to reduce fashion’s waste by 80% and save up to € 2.3 billion per year
Resortecs’ innovation – the first of its kind – can process up to 1 ton of garments per day and is being tested by 30 major global fashion brands
Recently, images of the mountains of unsold clothing dumped in the Atacama Desert, in Chile, shocked the world. Each year, 34 million tonnes of textiles worth more than 400 billion euros are wasted by the fashion industry – which became a strategic target of the EU Green Deal. Behind these alarming figures are the costs and complexity of disassembly and recycling. When faced with stacks of unsold inventory, that might reach up to 40% of each season’s production, fashion brands turn to options easier and cheaper than recycling, such as landfills or incineration. If it’s up to Resortecs, however, this scenario is about to change.
The start-up presents its first thermal disassembly system in a demonstration event for the press, politicians, investors, and industry peers in Brussels on Thursday, 09/12. The system combines heat and mechanical force to disassemble clothes stitched with Resortecs’ heat-dissolvable threads. Inside the system – a globally-patented, high-tech version of an industrial oven – the clothes are exposed to specific temperatures, making the seams disappear automatically and allowing for easy material sorting and recycling.
“The system works with little to no oxygen inside. This preserves the fabrics’ quality and prevents the clothes from burning, even when they are submitted to temperatures higher than 200° C”, explains William Allouche, Technical Lead for Disassembly and the mind behind the system’s engineering. “We’ve made sure to develop a closed-loop system to preserve the heat produced for each batch of clothes for the longest time possible. This ensures energy recovery and generates way less CO2 emissions than other heat-induced processes.”
The thermal process is 5x faster than traditional disassembly methods and enables the recycling of up to 90% of the original fabric material, instead of the usual 48% obtained after manual or mechanical disassembly. Using data to prove the impact of its innovation, Resortecs ran an externally-reviewed life-cycle assessment which shows that the process adoption could help the fashion industry cut its CO2 emissions by 50% and reduce waste generation by 80%. If the entire EU production were thermally disassembled and recycled, the fashion industry could generate 60.3 million fewer tons of CO2 and save up to € 2.3 billion per year.
The version presented to the public is just a prototype. It can process up to 1 ton of textile per day and is being used to show first partners, such as the fast-fashion giant H&M and other 30 global fashion brands, how the start-up’s solution works. In the long term, it will be part of a network of thermal disassembly systems placed in recycling plants all over the world. The idea is to cover the globe with automatic thermal disassembly to speed up global textile recycling. Still in 2022, a second system with a larger processing capacity will come into operation. Together, both units will be able to prepare up to 13 tonnes/day of clothing for recycling, an unprecedented volume in the world.
“Everyone thinks of recycling, but no one looks at the biggest challenge to make it happen: disassembly. We saw an opportunity to optimize production while boosting up recyclability and sustainability, and we jumped on it” says founder Cédric Vanhoeck. “Brands have finally realized that there’s no way to continue producing and wasting textile as if nothing is happening with the planet. When we started 4 years ago, brands complained about the costs of sustainability, now they come to us because they understand that circularity is an investment.”