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Re:NewCell bags 2023 Nordic Council Environment Prize

Re:NewCell bags 2023 Nordic Council Environment Prize
The 2023 Nordic Council Environment Prize goes to Re:NewCell AB (Renewcell) from Sweden for its groundbreaking solution for recycling and reusing textile waste for use in new clothes and products. Renewcell received this year’s prize comprising DKK 300,000, on October 31, 2023, at an awards ceremony held at the Norwegian Opera and Ballet in Oslo, Norway for the Nordic Council prizes and officiated by the Norwegian Crown Prince and Princess (photo courtesy Magnus Fröderberg).

The 2023 Nordic Council Environment Prize goes to Re:NewCell AB (Renewcell) from Sweden for its groundbreaking solution for recycling and reusing textile waste for use in new clothes and products.

The theme for the 2023 Nordic Council Environment Prize is sustainable textile production and consumption.

With this theme, the adjudication committee wants to focus on how the Nordics can be pioneers in the necessary transition of the entire textile value chain to bring about a circular fashion industry.

A total of seven projects were nominated for this year’s prize.

Facilitates a circular fashion industry

The adjudication committee’s rationale for this year’s winner states that “in a situation where we must first and foremost reduce consumption as well as extend the life of textiles and introduce circular business models, Renewcell’s pioneering process for recycling and reusing textile waste to make new textiles is key to closing the cycle in the textile industry and enabling a circular fashion industry.”

The textile industry poses many challenges – social, environmental, and climate-related. Sustainable textile production and a greater awareness of textile consumption in the Nordics can help to encourage positive development on a global level.

Facts

About the Nordic Council Environment Prize

The Nordic Council Environment Prize was first awarded in 1995 to raise awareness of work on the environment in the Nordic Region. Anyone can put forward nominees.

The prize goes to a company, organization, or individual for exemplary efforts to integrate respect for the environment into their business or work or for some other form of extraordinary initiative on behalf of the environment.

The winner receives a DKK 300,000 prize.

Challenging sector

The dominant business model in textile production and consumption is one based on low-quality products, fast fashion, and ever-growing consumption.

The textile manufacturing industry all too often offers badly underpaid work and violates human rights. The multidimensional and systemic problems of the textile and clothing industry mean that changes are needed at multiple levels, by multiple stakeholders.

Textile shredding machine, part of the textile recycling process. However, clothing and textiles are typically composed of mixed materials where the chemical contents are unknown. That is why large-scale studies are needed, where several chemical substances are tested (photo courtesy IKEA).

According to a 2019 study “Textiles and the environment in a circular economy”  commissioned for the European Environment Agency (EEA), the textile industry accounts for ten percent of global industrial emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and also adversely affects the environment by way of unsustainable land and water use and emissions of artificial fertilizers and chemicals.

According to the same study, washing synthetic clothes accounts for 35 percent of the primary microplastics released into the environment.

As it stands, enough clothes and textiles have been produced worldwide to clothe several future generations. According to a 2018 article “The global environmental injustice of fast fashion“, published in the scientific journal Environmental Health, 80 billion items of clothing are consumed worldwide every year.

The majority of all clothes manufactured end up dumped or incinerated –  on average, a truckload goes to landfill every second, according to calculations by the Swedish Ministry of Climate and Enterprise.

First-of-its-kind industrial scale

Renewcell is the first in the world to have a large-scale industrial process to give old clothes new life by recycling them back into a fibre mass that can be used to make clothes and other products from recycled textile material.

Re:newcell is transforming cotton and viscose into a dissolving pulp product branded as Circulose, produced from 100 percent recycled textiles such as jeans (photo courtesy Alexander Donka).

Renewcell’s innovative solution derives from research that was initiated in 2012 at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm.

The company’s vision is to make the fashion industry circular through its patented process for recycling cellulose-based textile waste – such as worn-out cotton clothes or production waste – to produce a high-quality new material called “Circulose”.

Renewcell’s product is currently the only virgin-grade commercially recycled textile-to-textile material to be used on a large scale.

The company has also breathed new life into old industrial premises and uses local expertise for more future-looking industrial operations.

Innovations of this kind are key to the transition to a more sustainable and circular textile industry paving the way for large-scale and circular fashion in the future.

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