Made-in-France cotton?

Posted on 27 January 2020.

Our old clothes are great resource for the textile industry. The mechanical recycling demonstrator for cotton fiber developed by CETI in Tourcoing shows it’s possible to make new clothes from old yarn.

It took more than two years and an investment of 2 million euros for the European Center for Innovative Textiles (CETI) to develop a mechanical recycling demonstrator for used cotton fiber. Inaugurated on September 19, 2019 in Tourcoing, this made-in-France innovation allows up to 70% of recycled cotton fibers to be incorporated into new clothing. A great performance!
The process is divided into several stages. The garments collected are first sorted by composition and color, then cut into pieces. Metal accessories, such as buttons or zippers, are automatically removed. Then comes the fraying. The fabric passes through several cylinders filled with sharp points that break the fabric down into fibers. The result is a fine cotton flock.
At this point, the fibers are too short to be made into yarn; they have to be mixed with virgin cotton fibers that are at least 30% longer. The mixture is homogenized to produce a uniform raw material. Finally, carding produces a cotton ribbon which can then be spun.


Dual environmental and economic challenge

Some 600,000 metric tons of clothes, household linens and shoes are sold annually in France - almost 10 kg per year per person. A third of the textiles collected are recycled, and not just to produce dishcloths!
Thanks to mechanical recycling, our old clothes can be turned back into fiber and be used in the textile industry according to circular economy principles. The French brand Hopaal, for example, makes t-shirts and shirts from recycled cotton.
But the issue is not only an environmental one. Used textiles represent a resource that manufacturers could draw from. The standardization of industrial-scale textile recycling processes, like the CETI demonstrator, would not only make it possible to recover production waste and end-of-life clothing, but also to supply the textile industry - in many countries is import-based - with a locally available secondary raw material. Could France soon be producing cotton?