PanamaTimes

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Finland wants to transform how we make clothes

Finland wants to transform how we make clothes

Petri Alava used to wear pressed suits and leather shoes to work, managing large corporations selling everything from magazines to gardening equipment.

Now he runs a Finnish start-up where socks are the norm on the office floor, and he proudly sports a round-neck T-shirt spun from recycled clothing fibres, tucked into some baggy shorts.

His firm, Infinited Fiber, has invested heavily in a technology which can transform textiles that would otherwise be burned or sent to landfills, into a new clothing fibre.

Called Infinna, the fibre is already being used by global brands including Patagonia, H&M and Inditex, which owns Zara. "It's a premium quality textile fibre, which looks and feels natural - like cotton," says Mr Alava, rubbing his own navy blue tee between his fingers. "And it is solving a major waste problem."

Around the world, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year, according to non-profit Global Fashion Agenda, and this figure is set to rise to more than 134 million tonnes by 2030, if clothing production continues along its current track.

Infinna fibre is derived from unwanted clothes and textiles


To the untrained eye, samples of Infinited Fiber's recycled fibre resemble lambswool; soft, fluffy and cream coloured. Mr Alava explains that the product is produced through a complex, multi-step process which starts with shredding old textiles and removing synthetic materials and dyes, and ends with a new fibre, regenerated from extracted cellulose.

This finished fibre can then simply "hop into the traditional production processes" used by High Street brands, replacing cotton and synthetic fibres, to produce everything from shirts and dresses to denim jeans.

Much of the science involved in making the fibre has been around since the 1980s, says Mr Alava, but rapid technological advancements in the last few years have finally made large-scale production a more realistic possibility.

In parallel, he believes High Street brands have become more focused on "really honestly looking for changing their material usage", while millennial and Gen Z consumers are increasingly concerned about shopping sustainably. "They are different animals, different consumers, to people my age," he laughs.

Infinited Fiber says its material can replace cotton and synthetic fibres


The company has already attracted so much interest in its technology that it recently announced it was investing €400m (£345m; $400m) to build its first commercial-scale factory at a disused paper mill in Lapland.

The goal is to produce 30,000 tonnes of fibre a year once it's operating at full capacity in 2025. That is equivalent to the fibre needed for approximately 100 million T-shirts.

"I think the impact could be quite big, if you think about the whole textile system, what exists currently and how much textile waste that we have," argues Kirsi Niinimäki, an associate professor in fashion research at Aalto University, a few blocks away from Infinited Fiber's headquarters.

"It's a really good example of actually how we can 'close the loop'… really begin to move to a circular economy."

Infinited Fiber's growth is tied into a wider vision in Finland, which wants to become Europe's leading circular economy, with a focus on reusing and saving resources. In 2016, it became the first government in the world to create a national road map designed to help reach its goal.

Several other Finnish start-ups are looking at ways to produce new textile fibres on a big scale, while also cutting down on harmful emissions and chemicals. These include Spinnova which, from its textiles factory in Jyväskylä, central Finland, transforms cellulose from raw wood pulp into ready-to-spin fibres.

It has partnered up with Suzano, one of the world's leading pulp producers, headquartered in Brazil. And, the company says its spinning technologies can even be used to create new fibres from a range of other materials that can be turned into pulp, from wheat straw to leather offcuts.

Janne Poranen hopes Spinnova will become a household name


"Of course, the volumes are tiny at the moment, [but] our plan together with Suzano is that in the next 10 years we are going to upscale up to one million tonnes in annual volume," says Janne Poranen, one of Spinnova's co-founders.

He is less specific about how exactly that is going to happen, though, refusing to give any financial projections and admitting that the company has yet to decide which continent its first large-scale production plants outside Finland are likely to be built on.

Still, Spinnova's yarn is attracting plenty of global attention and has so far been used by brands including upmarket Finnish clothing label Marimekko, and outdoor wear firms North Face, Bergans and Adidas, which recently used it in a limited edition midlayer hoodie designed for hikers.

Mr Poranen has big ambitions for Spinnova-woven products, hoping they can gain a reputation for being sustainable and long-lasting, in a similar way to how Gor-Tex became a household name for its waterproof technologies.

Spinnova fibres are made from cellulose from raw wood pulp


Elsewhere in Europe, there are a range of other companies developing technologies to create more circular yarns, including Swedish startup Renewcell, and Bright.fiber Textiles, which plans to open its first factory in the Netherlands in 2023.

But experts say there are a range of challenges facing these new fibre brands as they plot their expansions.

Ms Niinimäki underlines that the clothing manufacturing sector has, until recently, been slower than many other industries when it comes to embracing sustainability, which could set the tone for a slower transformation than companies like Spinnova and Infinited Fiber hope.

"It has been so easy to produce the way that we have been producing, and just to move towards more effective industrial manufacturing on an increasingly bigger scale," she says.

"There hasn't been a big pressure to change the already existing system." However, she is hopeful that, in the European Union at least, new rules aimed at ensuring clothing manufacturers focus on more sustainable and durable products will speed up "a change in mindsets".

Another issue is whether clothing brands will be able to pass on the additional costs of their new high-tech production techniques on to consumers, especially at a time when the cost of living is spiralling globally.

Adidas makes a hoodie from Spinnova fabric, but it's not cheap


Adidas' latest limited edition hoodie produced with Spinnova fabric costs €160 (£137; $160) to buy online in Finland, at least €40 more than most of its other technical hoodies.

"Fashion is a complicated area, because even if people are saying that they are environmentally aware, they don't always act rationally," says Ms Niinimäki. "There's also this kind of emotional side when you talk about fashion consumption, and of course, the price is also linked to that."

While both Infinited Fiber and Spinnova insist their business plans look holistically at all aspects of production - for example using renewable technologies to power their factories - climate campaigners argue it is still too early to accurately estimate the net effect of these new techniques on carbon emissions.

"Pulp and other alternative fibres can provide diversity for sourcing textile materials and therefore lessen the burden caused by production of more traditional textile raw materials such as cotton," says Mai Suominen, a leading forest expert for WWF. "However it depends on the use of energy, all the processes they use and how they use waste materials."

Most importantly, she argues, simply slotting more sustainable fibres into the multibillion dollar fashion industry won't be enough to combat climate change, if we keep making and buying clothes at the current rate.

Mai Suominen says there needs to be clear targets for reducing resource use


"There is no sustainable development unless the overall natural resource consumption is radically decreased to a level that fits within planetary boundaries," she argues.

But within the Finnish fibres industry there is a sense of boomtown optimism that the increased use of recycled or reimagined fibres could be an important part of the jigsaw in the battle to limit climate change.

"The fast-fashion companies who have been kind of creating certain parts of the problem are highly interested in new technologies," says Infinited Fibers chief executive Petri Alva. He believes that if investment continues, the recycled fibres could become mainstream within ten to 15 years.

Newsletter

Related Articles

PanamaTimes
0:00
0:00
Close
El Salvador's Bitcoin Holdings Reach $350 Million
Teens Forming Friendships with AI Chatbots
WhatsApp Rolls Out Major Redesign
Neuralink's First Brain Implant Experiences Issue
Apple Unveils New iPad Pro with M4 Chip, Misleading AI Claims
OpenAI to Announce Google Search Competitor
Apple Apologizes for Controversial iPad Pro Ad Featuring Instrument Destruction
German politician of the AFD party, Marie-Thérèse Kaiser was just convicted & fined $6,000+
Changpeng Zhao Sentenced to Four Months in Jail
Biden Administration to Relax Marijuana Regulations
101-Year-Old Woman Mistaken for a Baby by American Airlines: Comical Mix-Up during Flight Check-in
King Charles and Camilla enjoying the Inuit voice singing performance in Canada.
New Study: Vaping May Lower Fertility in Women Trying to Get Pregnant
U.S. DOJ Seeks Three-Year Sentence for Binance Founder Changpeng Zhao
Headlines - Thursday, 23 April 2024
Illinois Woman Wins $45M Lawsuit Against Johnson & Johnson and Kenvue for Mesothelioma Linked to Baby Powder
Panama's lates news for Friday, April 19
Creative menu of a Pizza restaurant..
You can be a very successful player, but a player with character is another level!
Experience the Future of Dining: My Visit to an AI-Powered Burger Joint
Stabbing rampage terror attack in Sydney, at least four people killed, early reports that a baby was among those stabbed.
Iran fired more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel overnight. Israel Reports Light Damage After Iran Launches Large Strike.
I will never get enough of his videos and the pure joy and beauty of these women!!
Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed an "invisibility cloak", for AI using adversarial patterns on a sweater, making the wearer nearly undetectable to standard object detection methods.
Lamborghini Bids Farewell to Its Best-Selling Sports Car: The Huracán
Sam Bankman-Fried Appeals 25-Year Prison Sentence for $8bn FTX Fraud
OJ Simpson, ex-NFL star who was acquitted of murder, dies aged 76
British Backpacker Imprisoned in Notorious Bolivian Prison: Family Raises Funds for Legal Fight and Essentials
Argentina: Venezuela Cuts Power to Embassy after Opposition Meeting
El Salvador Offers 5,000 Passports to Skilled Foreign Workers: Tax-Free Relocation and Citizenship
Panama Papers Trial Begins: Founders of Mossack Fonseca Face Money-Laundering Charges
75 Becomes the New 65: Retiring in Your 60s Unrealistic as Life Expectancy Increases and Costs Rise
Total Solar Eclipse of 2021: 32 Million Witness the Mystical, $1.5bn Spectacle Sweep Across North America
New shopping experience…
New world, new reality, let’s get used to it
UK Company Passes Milestone in Developing Space-Based Solar Power, Aiming to Power a Million Homes and Provide Constant Energy
Mexico Breaks Diplomatic Ties with Ecuador after Police Storm Embassy, Arrest Former Vice President
Monty Python were so ahead of their time
If there's a will, there's a way!
Rules about how to dress are important, but not so much if you have a lot of money.
Body Armor Firm Showcases Stab-Proof Vest in Demo on CEO
Mexico Cuts Diplomatic Ties with Ecuador After Embassy Stormed in Quito
Here is a tattoo idea, for engineers
Zoraya Ter Beek, a 28-year-old woman from the Netherlands, will undergo euthanasia in May due to severe mental health challenges
Here's a video featuring Fidel Castro, where he discusses his stance against war and his commitment to preserving life, positions that have put him at odds with the USA:
Woman reaches behind and steals gun from a security guard and shoots three people while getting detained in Chile
Take a walk around the safe and thriving downtown San Salvador.
Joe Biden criticised by Trump campaign for declaring Transgender Day of Visibility on Easter Sunday
Macron says France will help Brazil develop nuclear-powered submarines
A video demonstrating women's self defense class in 1930
×