Jaap W. van Hal, Ph.D.
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Clothing is currently virtually all produced in Asia, at low cost, under poor labour conditions and with few concerns for the environmental impact. The vast majority of clothing is made of two types of fibres; polyester (ca 64%) and cotton (ca 22%). Polyester is used for its strength, durability and cost effectiveness (ca €1/kg). Cotton is used for its comfort properties.
The current system has considerable disadvantages and shortcomings. Polyester is oil-based produced from sources in the Middle East, whilst cotton is mostly grown in e.g. India, with a large environmental impact because of pesticides and high water consumption. Moreover, small fibre fractions are released from the garments, especially from polyester fibres, during washing and wearing. These microplastics end up and accumulate in soil and water. The textile sector is considered the second largest contributor, with the annual amount of primary microplastics released from textiles estimated at 190,000 mt.
It is necessary to reinvent the fashion value chain focusing on sustainable bio-based raw materials that can enable recycling and circular use. The main aim is maintaining the materials value as long as possible and apply novel approaches that can prevent the release of microplastics. Novel trends in how to buy and use clothing are also needed, as well as overcoming transport intensive business models that lead to over production.
The HEREWEAR project aims at the creation of an EU economy for locally-produced circular textiles and clothing made from biobased resources. This will be realised by a holistic approach covering all necessary levels. On the technical side, emerging sustainable technologies for wet and melt spinning of cellulose and bio-based polyesters, for yarn and fabric production and for coating and colouring will be developed and piloted at semi-industrial scale. Furthermore, we aim to significantly reduce the microfibre release via measures along the textile manufacturing process.
The project will maximise the sustainability and circularity of our clothing via connecting regional microfactories and by platform-supported, networked production resources. Guidelines will be provided to support the design of fashion goods, with focus on bio-based materials and reuse/recycling. Garment prototypes for streetwear and corporate clothing will demonstrate the HEREWEAR circular bio-based concept.
TNO will contribute to this by adapting our patented FABIOLA™ process to fractionate residual biomass to produce the cellulose needed for the envisioned fabrics. FABIOLA™ utilises the cascading total biomass valorisation concept and produces high quality cellulose (for this project), lignin and inhibitor free hemicellulose. Furthermore, TNO will produce cellulose from seaweed while also conserving the other valuable components such as hydrocolloids, proteins and minerals. Biomass has a prominent role in the transition to sustainability, preferably where sustainable alternatives are not available or only to a limited extent: as a high-grade feedstocks for the biobased economy.
The HEREWEAR consortium is strongly SME driven, including 8 SMEs and 1 large enterprise. These are complemented by 6 research organisations. HEREWEAR covers all required expertise and infrastructure from academic, applied research and industry from 9 different EU countries, complemented with the support of an SME from the US.
his project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101000632. The project is coordinater by Centexbel (CTB), the Belgian scientific and technical centre for the textile industry.