IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute

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Life cycle assessment of mechanical textile recycling in Sweden
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
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2024 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This report presents a screening life cycle assessment (LCA) of a potential, future mechanical textile recycling system located in Sweden. The report is based on rough assumptions, data estimates and scenarios exploring the influence of uncertainties regarding, for example, the location of the recycling plant (influencing the transport distances), the need for constructing new infrastructure for the recycling plant, the need to sort the incoming feedstock, the electricity mix used at the recycling plant, and fuel type used in transports. The main conclusions of the report are as follows:

1. The results, in terms of climate impact, energy demand, and fossil resource use, for mechanically recycled fibres, are in the lower range, or about an order of magnitude lower, compared to the results of production of primary fibres. Although the results of this kind of screening LCA of a future production system are inherently uncertain, the results strongly indicate that establishing mechanical recycling of textiles in Sweden has a high potential to contribute to reduced environmental impact in the textile sector. 

2. As mechanically recycled fibres often rely on blending with a substantial share of primary fibres in yarn spinning, the environmental impact of the final yarn will depend on the environmental impact of the primary fibres used for blending.

3. The studied uncertainties substantially influence the environmental impact of the recycled fibres. These uncertainties regards the location of the recycling plant (influencing the transport distances), the need to build new infrastructure for the recycling plant, the need to sort incoming feedstock, the electricity mix used at the recycling plant, and the fuel type used in transports of materials to and from the recycling plant. These parameters are important to consider when developing, designing, and operating a mechanical recycling plant in Sweden. But even with relatively long transportation distances, new infrastructure, (manual and automatic) pre-sorting, mostly fossil fuels used in transports and an electricity mix with high climate impact, the environmental impact of the mechanically recycled fibres are in the lower range of, or substantially lower than, the environmental impact of most primary fibres.

4. The fact that mechanical recycling in Sweden is expected to be powered by an electricity grid mix with relatively low climate impact makes a big difference in terms of the climate impact. A location in a region with a grid mix with higher climate impact, such as the (current) European grid mix, would increase the climate impact of the recycled fibres with about 200 kg CO2 eq. per t fibres – which would still result in fibres with low climate impact compared to most primary fibres.

5. The sensitivity analysis, based on a Monte Carlo analysis, showed that the climate impact results are relatively stable with regard to the distance for the transports to and from the recycling plant, the amount of electricity used in the recycling plant, and the material loss at the recycling plant. Although these are important parameters to keep track of to ensure as low climate impact as possible, they seem not to be critical for the climate-impact viability of the recycled fibres.

The present report is based on likely circumstances and technologies available today. Potential future changes are not accounted for. Furthermore, the impact categories selected for this study relate to energy-related issues – climate impact and resource constraints – as these are expected to be the main issues of mechanical textile recycling. There are other impacts that are also important, especially when discussing the environmental impact of mechanically recycled fibres in comparison to primary biobased fibres such as – for example water deprivation and impacts on land use.

The LCA was conducted within the BioInnovation  project “Mechanical textile recycling – Roadmap for Swedish processing capacity” and considered data and scenarios on business cases on mechanical textile recycling developed within the project. The LCA and its results were intended primarily for internal project work, but the work is made public in this report as the results may also be relevant for external actors interested in developing or investing in a future textile recycling plant within or outside of Sweden. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg: IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet, 2024.
Series
C report ; C813
Keywords [en]
Mechanical recycling, fibre recycling, textile industry, circular economy, LCA, carbon footprint
National Category
Textile, Rubber and Polymeric Materials
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ivl:diva-4312ISBN: 978-91-7883-563-8 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ivl-4312DiVA, id: diva2:1833833
Funder
VinnovaAvailable from: 2024-02-01 Created: 2024-02-01 Last updated: 2024-02-01

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Sandin Albertsson, GustavLidfeldt, MatildaNellström, MajaStrandberg, Johan
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