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A cover made of recycled jeans

It’s time for a final sneak peek at A Cellulose-Based Society, Innventia’s new Global Outlook Report. With just two weeks to go until its release, we are taking a look at the cover of the report – something that is special, to say the least!

Paul Krochak

Paul Krochak is Senior Research Manager at Innventia and has been researching papermaking for a long time. But when it comes to the cover of the new report, unbroken ground awaited. We let Paul explain. 

What type of cover does the report have?
The cover is very interesting. It actually consists of 50% recycled textile fibres – in other words, old jeans! 

There is a huge problem with textile waste in the world today, which is rooted in what is known as “low cost, high fashion” or “fast fashion”. There is a growing trend for people to buy low-cost clothing with a high fashion component. The younger generation in particular can buy ten, maybe fifteen garments that they only wear once or twice. Then they simply throw them away! These fibres are often of a lower quality, which means reusing them in the textile industry is more difficult. This presents us with a growing problem – what to do with this type of clothing and how to recycle fibres of a lower quality. As a society, we need to find a way of reusing them if we are to achieve the goal of a circular economy.

What have you done?
Innventia first conducted a ‘hypothesis testing project’  financed by Vinnova, within Bioinnovation. We suggested that we simply test the hypothesis: “Could we use these recycled low-quality jeans fibres in a papermaking process?” And we did! We sourced the fibres from SOEX, a large company in Germany involved in textile recycling. They gave us a few tonnes of recycled textile fibres that we more or less “threw” into our FEX paper machine. Then we crossed our fingers. 

What did we get out? Well, actually a very interesting paper. The fact is, it turned out so well that we thought: “Can we do a little better, given our papermaking knowledge?” What we needed was a slight process optimisation in order to be able to manufacture a quality that is better suited to a graphic application. The result was a material that we have now used for the cover of the report! It consists of 50% recycled textile fibres and 50% recycled paper.

Using recycled textile fibres in a papermaking process is not actually anything new in itself. Our industry was doing that in the early 1800s. But despite that, nobody has really done the same in industrial scale since then. Now we’re there – and we’re also seeing a circularity in the technology.

Why did you choose a cover like this?
The cover is an example and summary of what this report is all about – a circular economy. In a cellulose-based society, no fibres are wasted – they are reused. We wanted to demonstrate that a paper machine can be used for more than just ordinary paper – creating a textile-like material, preferably for new, innovative applications.

What was the major challenge?
Using a foreign raw material in a paper machine without any type of processing and then just crossing our fingers and hoping it would work – that was a bit daring! But you have to be a little bit daring to get results: No risk, no reward! Actually, there wasn’t really any major challenge. Everything worked well. It just wasn’t quite perfect on the first attempt. However, once we had identified the improvement potential, we were satisfied.

I think this is a great cover and I hope everyone else will feel the same! The report, A Cellulose-Based Society, will not be available digitally but only in printed format – each copy with this cover. I can reveal that it has quite a unique texture. But what it looks like and how it feels otherwise, I'll leave to the readers to find out personally! In just two weeks the report will be here; then it will be reality.