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ABB Helps Make Fashion Industry More Sustainable with Innovative Technology

27-09-2021
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ABB will deliver automation, electrification, quality control systems, motors and drives for Renewcell’s new industrial textile recycling production line in Sundsvall, Sweden. Renewcell is a fast-growing Swedish sustaintech company specialising in textile-to-textile recycling.

With ABB technology, a former SCA paper mill will be transformed into the world’s first commercial-scale recycling plant for cellulosic textiles – created by dissolving natural materials such as cellulose which is then regenerated to create a wide range of fabrics. Renewcell is already working with several fashion manufacturers, and in 2020, the company and H&M Group entered a multi-year partnership to replace virgin fibres with recycled textiles in clothing.

The contract between ABB and Renewcell marks an important milestone for the fashion industry. According to Renewcell’s preliminary calculations, textile fibres made from its recycled raw material use approximately 50 litres of fresh water per kg in production, compared to around 1,600 litres for cotton and 90 litres for non-cotton cellulosic material viscose. With a maximum production capacity of 60,000 tons per year Renewcell’s innovative approach could help to preserve around 90 billion litres of fresh water, the equivalent of 36,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The process also lowers waste, plastic pollution and both CO₂ and chemical emissions.

“We at ABB believe that electrification and automation technologies can play a key role in transforming industries and reducing their environmental footprint,” said Theodor Swedjemark, ABB’s Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer. “We are honoured to support Renewcell in their exciting journey towards increased circularity of the fashion industry – an ambition that is fully aligned with our own efforts to systematically improve circularity across ABB’s supply chain as part of our 2030 sustainability strategy.”

Joachim Braun, Division President, Process Industries, ABB said: “This contract allows us to apply our deep pulp and paper expertise and project experience to help Renewcell reduce its emissions and preserve resources, and ultimately change fashion for the better.”

The process for clothing recycling is similar to pulp drying, breaking down cellulose in cotton and viscose textiles to recycle into new raw materials. This similarity enables Renewcell to use the existing infrastructure, including buildings and the supply and processing of raw water, waste water, compressed air and electricity at the SCA mill. This will be coupled with ABB’s paper and automation expertise, to manufacture recycled textiles that might otherwise have gone to landfill or incineration.

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