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TOMRA Textiles and Circle-8 to explore solutions for a UK circular textile ecosystem

TOMRA and Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems have entered into a collaboration agreement to advance developments towards the first automated textiles sorting and pre-processing facility for non-reusable textiles in the United Kingdom (UK).

The companies will conduct a feasibility study for an automated textile sorting and pre-processing facility, emphasizing solution and process designs that can be scaled. The explorative collaboration agreement is focused on the UK market. Despite higher average re-use levels compared to the rest of Europe, an estimated 700,000 tonnes of non-reusable apparel and other textiles are generated every year in the UK. Textiles is one of the world’s least sustainable industries, with less than one per cent of material produced being kept in a closed loop.

As a key member of the ACT UK, a consortium set up to industrialize textile sorting in the country launched in 2023, Circle-8 is working with stakeholders along the textiles value chain to realise a circular textiles ecosystem in the UK. Through its independent collaboration with TOMRA Textiles, Circle-8 will draw on TOMRA’s experience and know-how to develop solution designs for a future automated sorting and pre-processing facility for non-reusable textiles in the UK.

TOMRA was the main technology provider to the world’s first fully scaled automated textile sorting facility, SIPtex, in Malmö, Sweden. The Swedish research project has provided valuable lessons for optimising and reconfiguring TOMRA’s technology for industrial-scale sorting of post-consumer garments. The ambition of the feasibility study is to devise an automated solution for textile sorting by fibre composition and colour, in addition to the removal of disruptors such as buttons, zippers and trims, and cutting materials to sizes that make them suitable for textile-to-textile recycling processes.

Automated sorting and pre-processing of non-reusable textiles is crucial to enabling a truly circular textiles value chain by turning non-reusable textiles into high quality feedstock required by existing and emerging textile-to-textile recyclers. We are looking forward to making positive progress towards this ambition in collaboration with TOMRA Textiles,” said Cyndi Rhoades, Co-founder and CEO of Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems.

Realising textile circularity at scale will require regulations and incentives, infrastructure investments, and a strong digital core. But most of all, it will require collaboration and co-creation of solutions across the value chain. TOMRA has more than 50 years of experience in developing technologies enabling the shift from linear to circular. In collaboration with Circle-8 and their network of retailers and brands in the UK, we hope to make meaningful progress on designing a solution for sorting and pre-processing of non-reusable textiles,” said Vibeke Krohn, Head of TOMRA Textiles, a business venture set up by TOMRA to develop transformative solutions for enabling textile circularity.

Cyndi Rhoades, Co-Founder, Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems
Cyndi Rhoades, Co-Founder, Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems
Vibeke Krohn, Head of TOMRA Textiles
Vibeke Krohn, Head of TOMRA Textiles

About Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems

Circle-8 Textile Ecosystems is unlocking textile-to-textile recycling in the UK, with a multi-phase approach. Our end goal is to build, own and operate the UK’s first large-scale polymer recycling plant for non-reusable textiles made from polyester and cotton by 2027, creating virgin equivalent circular raw materials for reintroduction into global supply chains. To supply the chemical textile recycling plant, Circle-8 is developing 25,000 tonne per year automated textile sorting and pre-processing facility (ATSP) for non-reusable textiles in the UK, creating a blueprint for multiple ATSPs.

Circle-8's ambition is to divert the UK’s estimated yearly 700,000+ tonnes of non-reusable textiles away from export, landfill, and incineration and back into UK-origin new textile circular materials. Circle-8 is a major partner in ACT UK, receiving a significant share of a £4 million grant from Innovate UK, with a consortium of 21 industry partners, to design and develop a blueprint for the UK’s first ATSP.

About TOMRA Textiles

TOMRA Textiles helps transform the textile value chain, from linear to circular. We do so by closing the gap between waste textiles and textile-to-textile recycling. Our automated sensor-based sorting technology, in collaboration with progressive partners, enables circularity at scale. TOMRA Textiles is part of TOMRA Horizon, the venture arm set up by TOMRA Group to explore new adjacent business opportunities and alternative business models leveraging the Group’s technology and decades of know-how.

TOMRA is a global leader in solutions that enable the circular economy with advanced collection and sorting systems. With an ultimate mission to strive for a world without waste, TOMRA specializes in waste management systems, material recovery technologies and food processing by employing sensor-based sorting and grading technology. Today, TOMRA has more than 100,000 installations in 100 markets globally, employs 5,000 people and annual revenues of NOK 14.8 billion.