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The textile industry is moving towards becoming circular

We buy on average 13 kilos of textiles per person per year. At the same time we throw away 8 kilos. RISE is conducting several research projects on how the textile industry will become more circular. Two of these relate to the RFID tagging of clothing and other textiles where the tagging creates the conditions that make it possible to recycle the products in an efficient way.

Some twenty players in the textile industry have joined forces with RISE to establish a global standard for RFID tagging.

– It is clear that some parts of the world have made more progress than others with their work on sustainability, but we are seeing that players from completely different parts of the industry are interested in establishing standardised rules that will apply globally, says Lisa Schwarz Bour, researchers and head of material recycling at RISE."

Focus on efficiency

Sorting textiles that come in for recycling is a manual process that takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. In order to streamline the work, RISE is now focusing on two different projects. One is to develop the technology for the tag itself, which can be incorporated into the garment or the textile item. This may for example be in a hem. Already today actors are tagging garments, but these hang like a price tag in the store and are then removed before the garment is worn.

– In order for the tagging to be helpful for sustainability work, the tag needs to follow the garment from the start until its endof-life, says Lisa Schwarz Bour. You need to know more than just basal data such as size and colour. It can include material composition, chemical profile and construction. Our research mainly looks at how the tag will cope with everything it encounters during the life of the garment such as washing, tumble drying, cold and heat.

A standardised information system

RISE's second research project on RFID tagging in the textile industry concerns the actual information system behind the tagging.

– The tag needs to be passive which means it does not include a power source. When the tag comes close to a reader, sufficient energy is sent for it to be readable so it can provide information about the product, says Lisa Schwarz Bour.

A common RFID standard for the textile industry may soon become a reality.

– I think this may be a few years away, says Ulf Haraldsson, business area manager at the Swedish standards Institute (SIS), which manages and coordinates standardisation in Sweden.  An important and critical part, however, is that the actors involved in the drafting of the standard proposal must agree on how much information the companies should share and to whom the information should be made available. I believe that the use of RFID tags would contribute to substantial changes throughout the life cycle and be an important starting point for a more sustainable textile industry.


RFID

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is used today, for example, in standard bar codes. An RFID tag can hold a large amount of data and be read by being close to a reader, which means that it can be placed in the middle of the garment and covered in fabric. RFID technology is a possible solution when it comes to traceability and transparency, which can enable more efficient sorting and recycling of textiles.