The "heart" of the sorting line is a spectroscopy system developed by the LZH. Based on the reflection spectrum of each material in the visible and infrared range, the system will recognize not only which material it is (cotton, wool, polyester), but also the color.
Used clothes are collected in all major European countries, but what really happens to these textiles? About half are wearable and find their way back into consumer textiles. The other half are either recycled for industrial purposed, for example as insulation material, or they are disposed of. A new European project plans on offering an alternative: Making new clothes from old clothes.
Dutch and German project partners, including the Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH), are working on a production chain which will turn old clothes into new clothes. The first step is sorting. First wearable clothes are sorted out manually. The rest are automatically sorted according to material and color. The more "pure" in material and color the batches are, the better they can be further processed. The goal of material identification is to reach a 95-99% sorting accuracy at a speed of at least 10 kilograms per minute.
The "heart" of the sorting line is a spectroscopy system developed by the LZH. Based on the reflection spectrum of each material in the visible and infrared range, the system will recognize not only which material it is (cotton, wool, polyester), but also the color. The LZH is responsible for the conception of the identity unit and the software development.
After identification and sorting, the textiles shredded and spun into new threads, which are then woven into new textiles and eventually made into new clothes.
Commercialization of the technology should lead to at least 10 sorting plants in Europe. The 30 month project is supported by the Eco-Innovation Program of the European Commission.
Michael Botts | idw
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