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Swedish firms advance novel textile processes

Start-ups are building their first plants for environmentally friendly cellulosic fibers

by Alex Scott
February 24, 2021 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 99, Issue 7


Sweden is emerging as a hub for sustainable textiles. Following Renewcell’s recent announcement that it will open a waste-textile recycling facility in Sweden, the Swedish start-up TreeToTextile says it will soon begin building a demonstration plant that uses a novel process to convert wood into cellulose-based textile fiber.

TreeToTextile uses dissolving wood pulp as its main raw material in a cold alkaline dissolution process. Other firms, such as Lenzing, already make cellulosic fibers from wood pulp. But TreeToTextile claims its process will use at least 33% less energy, 70% fewer processing chemicals, and 80% less water compared with other cellulosic fiber processes.

TreeToTextile is owned by three Swedish companies—furniture maker Ikea, clothing retailer H&M Group, and finance group LSCS Invest—and the Finnish pulp and paper firm Stora Enso.

The demonstration facility will cost about $43 million, with the partners providing $33 million and the Swedish Energy Agency paying for the rest. It will be located next to Stora Enso’s Nymölla paper mill in southern Sweden, with pulp supplied from a Stora Enso mill in Finland. The process is engineered to suit large-scale production and includes a recovery system for chemical reuse, Stora Enso says.

Meanwhile, the Swedish start-up Renewcell recently unveiled plans to open a 60,000-metric-ton-per-year waste-textile recycling plant—the first of its kind, it says—in Sundsvall, Sweden, in 2022. Renewcell’s process converts both natural and synthetic waste-textile fibers into a dissolving pulp for the production of new fibers.


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