Hong Kong recycles clothes without any water or chemicals!

Posted on 04 February 2020.

In July 2019, Hong Kong-based Novetex Textiles Limited presented "The Billie System," an innovative way of recycling clothes without water or chemicals.

« "We want to support a circular economy and efficiently manufacture ethical and environmentally friendly clothing." »

The fashion industry is one of the world’s most polluting industries. In addition to consuming a lot of natural resources (water, fossil fuels, etc.), it produces large amounts of waste. Worldwide, more than 15 million metric tons of textile waste are chucked out every year - and only 2.62 million tons are recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the face of environmental challenges, it is vital for the industry to review the entire clothing recycling chain. With this in mind, in July 2019 Hong Kong-based Novetex Textiles Limited began converting used textile fibers into recycled yarn, which can be woven again. Called "The Billie System", it has the advantage of using neither water nor chemicals - unlike existing recycling processes. In all, the machines can process up to 3 metric tons of textiles per day.
"We want to support a circular economy and efficiently manufacture ethical and environmentally friendly clothing," says Ronna Chao, CEO of Novetex Textiles Limited, on the company’s website.


Mechanical recycling

How does this innovative system actually work? Once collected, the clothes go through a first step of disinfection with ozone. When completed, the ozone is eliminated in the air as oxygen. Then the rigid parts of the clothes - buttons, zippers, rivets, etc. - are removed manually. The textiles are then cut into small pieces and sorted automatically using cameras on the basis of nine color ranges. A method that avoids having to bleach and dye the material.
After being mechanically broken down, the fibers go through two ultraviolet disinfection steps before being made into ribbons. Mixed with virgin materials, they will be used to produce yarn to re-manufacture textiles at the company's plant in Zhuhai.
In addition to offering a sustainable textile recycling solution, Novetex Textiles Limited hopes its system will create a ripple effect among other fashion companies. "Our system is only one solution to the much larger problem of textile waste. Many more people have to join the movement. We need a change of mentality, in terms of production and consumption. There has to be a paradigm shift," stresses Ronna Chao.