Innovation That Matters

Designing clothes for a waste-free future


One Belgian startup is making it easy to disassemble old clothes, helping to make clothes recycling efficient at scale

The fashion industry is worth around €1.2 trillion a year, a figure that’s predicted to grow to nearly €1.6 trillion by 2028. It is already enormously resource intensive, using 93 billion cubic metres of freshwater annually, and it’s highly polluting, responsible for 120,000 metric tonnes of microfibres entering oceans before the textiles have ever reached customers’ washing machines. And then there are emissions, around 1.2 billion tonnes a year. In addition, Fast Fashion has fuelled a huge waste issue for the industry, with less than one per cent of all garments recycled to a high quality, with the rest downcycled, incinerated or landfilled – a loss of $100 billion-worth (around €94 billion) of material each year.

Historically, the cost of recycling clothes has been high due to the need to disassemble garments manually, and a significant amount of the material is lost during the process. Now, a Belgium-based startup, Resortecs, is offering retailers automated disassembly at an industrial scale. Its Smart Stitch yarns are made from either bio-based or pre-existing synthetic polymers, are compatible with existing stitching machines and can be used in a variety of applications, from apparel to workwear. 

The yarns have melting points between 150–190 degrees Celsius, so when a garment is discarded it can go through Resortecs’ Smart Disassembly system, a closed-loop heating system that maximises energy recovery and minimises CO2 emissions. The garments go into the system and the Smart Stitch yarn simply ‘melts’ away, leaving up to 90 per cent recoverable fabric.

If the European garment production share were thermally disassembled and recycled, the textile industry would generate 60.3 million fewer tonnes of CO2 and save up to €2.3 billion per year. Great style doesn’t have to cost the Earth.

Video and article credit: RE:TV