Un-blending: explaining the breakthroughs in T2C fibre science

 Paper author Simone Haslinger explains the Ioncell-F fibre technology to partners at the beginning of the Trasn-2-Cash project

Paper author Simone Haslinger explains the Ioncell-F fibre technology to partners at the beginning of the Trasn-2-Cash project


At the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco 2017, doctoral candidate Simone Haslinger, Dr Michael Hummel and Prof Herbert Sixta presented a simple method to separate cotton from polyester in textile waste. Here they describe the underlying problem and explain how their solution can overcome one of the main challenges in textile recycling.

The textile waste kaleidoscope

There are currently 7.6 billion humans on this planet – and none is like the other. We all differ in our personalities, talents, looks, and tastes. And just as the fingerprints of two people don’t look the same, there are probably no two wardrobes in the world that contain exactly the same set of clothes. Clothes are a beautiful way to express our individuality and celebrate diversity. However, this diversity can become a challenge when trying to recycle old clothes, garments, and fabrics. They represent a wild mix of different materials with different colors, buttons, zippers, prints, embroideries, and many more. Thus, pre-sorting is required to categorize and group the textile waste according to certain criteria. At present, this is still mostly done manually and is very time-consuming. But the level of automation is increasing steadily, making textile waste sorting more and more efficient.

Cotton and polyester – intimate constituents of many textiles

A major share of textiles and fabrics on the market are not made from one material, but are blends of several fibers to achieve certain properties and functionalities. Even after successful pre-sorting, the separated garments often contain several materials. By far the most prominent mixture on the market is cotton and polyester. When isolated, both offer great potential to be reused and serve as raw material for the production of virgin cotton and polyester fibers, respectively. However, when mixed together neither of the material can be processed. Thus, another separation according to the chemical nature of the material is needed to turn the textile waste into a suitable feedstock.


A way out of the dilemma

We have been working for a number of years now on a technology to produce man-made cellulosic fibers from any cellulose containing feedstock (i.e. cotton, paper, card, bamboo…)  – we call this technology the Ioncell process. Integrating the separation of cotton and polyester into this process would allow to remove one additional process step and provide important energy and cost savings. Simone has started to use cotton-polyester mixtures as raw material and has developed specific process conditions to dissolve only the cotton fraction while the polyester parts remained solid. Polyester can be simply filtered off to be melted and processed again. The remaining cotton solution can be spun directly via the Ioncell process into new, high-quality cellulosic textile fibers. The established process did not compromise the integrity of either constituent and so a complete recycling of the mixed textile waste is possible. This was a major step for us towards feasible textile recycling.

See the full interview that Simone and Michael gave at the press conference of the ACS spring meeting in San Francisco 2017 here.

You can read the full paper on our 'Publications and progress' page.


The Trash-2-Cash family: Reporting from Workshop 11

 Paper authors Wencke Gwozdz (second from left) and Tina Müller (third from left) at the T-2-C workshop in Bilbao

For the penultimate project workshop the Trash-2-Cash team were at the Textile Fashion Centre in Borås, Sweden. With its rich history in textile and fashion production, Borås was an inspiring and appropriate setting for us to discuss our final sampling and product prototypes for the six master cases; the final Trash-2-Cash products.


This workshop had quite a different format to its predecessors, with the aim of fine-tuning and completing the master case ‘stories’ in terms of business models, branding and marketing, final samples, and product prototypes. To understand how all of the different pieces of work hang together, we created a mini expo for each master case; a cloud formation involving 6 parts: 

  • People, Methods and Tools 
  • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
  • Business Case Development
  • Product Story 
  • Prototypes 1 & 2 (development work)
  • Product & Prototype 3 (final work)

Each partner brought their work in hardcopy and we spent an hour at the beginning of day 1 populating these master case clouds. This was the first time we had seen everything together and the sense of excitement and achievement was clear to everyone in the room. It was the lightest and most joyful workshop by far (which perhaps isn’t surprising) but there was a real sense that all the hard work we had put in, to working with each other as well as on our individual tasks, has been worth it.


During day one we were guided through each master case by our Work Package 3 (design) and Work Package 5 (manufacturing) leaders Elina Ilen (Aalto Arts) and Virginie Boucher (Cidetec.) We looked at the new samples and discussed their presentation in the concluding expo at project partner VanBerlo’s Eindhoven offices during Dutch Design Week (DDW) in September.

The rest of the day was spent discussing the product stories and technical processes in separate disciplinary sessions before Prof Rebecca Earley (UAL) asked us to think about who our audiences are and how we can tell them the master case stories at DDW.

We spent a wonderful evening together at a Swedish sawmill, surrounded by the vernacular Falu (red) timber structure, before embarking on a busy day two schedule, focusing on building the business cases and finalizing the industrial processes necessary for the products to be realised. Whereas the emphasis on circularity earlier in the project had come through the Life Cycle Thinking Tool (LCT), now the focus is very much on LCT’s scientific counterpart: Life Cycle Analysis and so part of the afternoon was spent familiarizing the partners with the LCA flowcharts and identifying missing knowledge that can be provided within the consortium. This is the type of activity that cannot be done easily outside of the workshops. Seeing the flowcharts in large physical form, exchanging questions and suggestions about how to proceed and having RISE’s LCA experts Gustav and Bjorn there to explain help lubricate the knowledge flow in a way that Skype calls cannot.  


The final session was about the methodology, something intangible at first that has slowly grown into a substantial body of social research about how we work in an interdisciplinary way to develop circular materials. UAL and Aalto Arts began by presenting some of their key findings for the first time to the consortium. Rosie Hornbuckle (UAL) then guided the participants through a thought process exercise that enabled them to apply their experiences of interdisciplinary ‘design-driven’ work to the master cases. This resulted in each disciplinary team identifying which master case ‘most clearly demonstrates the design-driven methodology’, a finding that is essential for demonstrating, and to some extent validating, the way we have worked for these past three years.     

This workshop was different, not only in the work we did but also in the atmosphere. In the ‘tips and tops’ - a feedback exercise we carry out at the end of each workshop - people commented that it was the best workshop yet, that everyone was so familiar that it was like coming home. This may sound syrupy, but it was said with meaning and shows how much of themselves each person has invested in this process. It’s also testament to how well these experimental methods have supported the team, in knowledge integration, communication and also social and emotional connectivity. It’s an ‘outcome’ we couldn’t have imagined at the start, but it’s something we are very proud of.   

Come and see all six master cases at VanBerlo’s gallery space during Dutch Design Week, Wednesday 24th October – Friday 26th October 2018.  


Innovation Powerhouse

Building TR, Zwaanstraat 31A

5651 CA Eindhoven,

The Netherlands


Trash-2-Cash at Milan Design Week 2018

 Paper authors Wencke Gwozdz (second from left) and Tina Müller (third from left) at the T-2-C workshop in Bilbao

Each year Milan is the key destination for both fashion and design and Trash-2-Cash was there at Design Week 2018 once again showing off the progress made over the previous 12 months.

Part of the Smart City: Materials, Technology & People exhibition at the Materials Village, organised by Trash-2-Cash project partner Material Connexion Italia, on display was the story of Trash-2-Cash and the latest prototype materials to emerge from the project.

Professor Becky Earley, of Trash-2-Cash partner UAL, also gave a presentation as part of the exhibition’s programme of talks.

Titled “Circular Conversations: Fashioning a Circular Industry", Becky talked about her background, career and practice, and presented the work of the University's Centre for Circular Design (a textile and fashion sustainability research centre of which Becky is co-Founder and co-Director) focussing on Trash-2-Cash and its sister project Mistra Future Fashion.


Survey says!

 Paper authors Wencke Gwozdz (second from left) and Tina Müller (third from left) at the T-2-C workshop in Bilbao

Paper authors Wencke Gwozdz (second from left) and Tina Müller (third from left) at the T-2-C workshop in Bilbao


In the early stages of the T2C project, before we began defining and designing the fibres and materials circular fashion and textile industries require, we first set about better understanding the current modes of consumer behaviour and how it differs across countries and demographics.


Wencke Gwozdz, Kristian Steensen Nielsen and Tina Müller of T2C partner Copenhagen Business School conducted research shedding light onto the area and reported their findings in a paper that can be found on our 'Publications and progress' page. Here Tina summarises some of their findings and the possible implications.


Within the Trash-2-Cash project, our team based at Copenhagen Business School is looking at the consumer end of clothing consumption. At first glance, our passion is straightforward: to make the world a more sustainable place. We thereby focus on a very specific area: the (un)sustainability of fashion consumption. Our goal is to make the act of getting dressed a much more environmentally benign and socially just process. And we see what consumers can contribute to accomplish this. 

At a second glance, however, things usually get a little more complicated. What does it mean to consume - that is purchase, wear, maintain and discard - clothing items in a sustainable way? Can there ever be truly sustainable solutions within the currently predominant system we call ‘fast fashion’, or do we have to look further then the next quick organic cotton fix? How can we find sustainable clothing alternatives that fit consumer needs, and who do we actually mean when we speak about ‘the consumer’? 

Taking stock

To base our ideas on solid foundations, we firstly started out by taking stock – the result being the paper An Environmental Perspective on Clothing Consumption: Consumer Segments and Their Behavioral Patterns of Clothing Consumption, which I would like to introduce in what follows. The main purpose of this study was to assess clothing consumer behaviour in each consumption phase (purchase, use and maintenance, and disposal). 

While I, in the following, will put an emphasis on the purchase phase, a more in-depth discussion of the other phases and some numbers on alternative business models can be found in the paper

Recycled materials.jpeg

We asked 4,617 members of the public…

For our research, we asked 4,617 consumers from Germany, Poland, Sweden and the U.S. (close to representative on age, gender, region, and education) many questions about their clothing consumption. We then used some of these answers to group the heterogeneous lot into more homogenous groups. The results are five groups, with people most similar in their purchase behaviour grouped together and each group being as distinct as possible from each other.

In summary, the groups can be broken down as follows: two groups of consumers who buy less than average (4.38 and 4.25 items in the past three months) and represent more than half of the sample (2785 consumers), and two groups who buy more than average (8.39 and 10.90 items in the past three months; 1099 consumers). The major difference between the groups buying a similar number of items is the amount spent for those items: for the two below average item groups, the second group spends 35% more on their items. For the two above average item groups, the second group spends 97% more on their items. Additionally, we can find these purchase patterns reflected in the type of brands consumers chose (budget, casual or premium). A fifth group, consisting of just 100 participants, buys large amounts of items (13.63) with high spending from mainly casual and premium brands. 

When we look at the demographics of these segments, we find that it matters which country you are from. While the low spending group is dominated by Polish consumers, surely due to their comparatively low income and resulting diminished purchase power, there is a higher percentage of Germans and Americans in e.g. the high item, highest spending group. Female consumers predominate the first low item low spending group (60%) and male consumers prevail in the last, high item highest spending group (57%). Otherwise there are no gender differences between the groups.

It is interesting to make a comparison between the group buying a lower than average number of items with moderate spending (group 2) and the group buying a higher than average number of items but have the same median income (group 3). While the first group is spending 78.38€ on average, the latter is spending more than triple the amount (244.45€) – despite the same median monthly net income. Surprisingly we do not find any age differences across groups. 

ChemArts Top Regen Cell.jpg

One size fits all?

If we now go back to our original goals and questions, we can take away from this research that there is no one single consumer when it comes to fashion. Therefore, there cannot be one single royal road to sustainable fashion consumption. 

Clothing from regenerated fibres for example, which will be more expensive at least in the beginning, could be a possible alternative for the low or high number of items but high spending groups (groups 2, 3 and 5). For the group with low number of items bought for little money spent, however, the promotion of low cost acquisition alternatives (e.g. second hand, clothing libraries) could be more promising to reduce their environmental impact.

In general, any attempt to foster different sustainable clothing alternatives has to be a) aimed at a specific target group and b) finely matched to their reality and needs in order to have a chance of success. 

For the specific context of Trash-2-Cash, we zoom in further from all those broader questions and focus on one of the most discussed solutions to the unsustainability of the fashion industry up to date: closing the loop and making new clothing items out of old and used ones (or other forms of ‘trash’). Our main aim is to analyse the potential clothing from regenerated fibres has with consumers and to answer the question of how we can increase consumers’ acceptance of such clothing products.

You can read the full paper on our 'Publications and progress' page.


Reviewing our recycling assumptions


In our efforts to reduce our environmental impacts we often make assumptions about the tacit value of ideas and activities. Recycling must always be beneficial, surely? But when it comes to the researchers of the T2C team assumptions simply aren’t good enough.


In a recently published academic article, Dr Gustav Sandin Albertsson of T2C partner RISE and Professor Greg Peters of Chalmers take a closer look at what we really know about the environmental pros and cons of textile reuse and recycling. Here Gustav outlines the key takeaways from the research.


A project like Trash-2-Cash, which aims to develop new fabrics from recycled textiles, rests on the assumption that textile recycling is a good thing; for saving resources and for the environment. Circulating textiles instead of incinerating or putting them in landfill is intuitively a sound way of managing materials. But as a researcher with an appetite for calculating the environmental impact of stuff, intuition is not good enough. I want to know the facts: Is textile recycling worthwhile from an environmental point of view? And what should we think about when designing new recycling systems?

What we do and what others have already done

In Trash-2-Cash we do life cycle assessments, LCA in short, to make sure the materials and design concepts we develop indeed contribute to less environmental degradation. LCA calculates the environmental impact of a product or a service, from its “cradle” where natural resources are extracted, to its “grave” where it’s disposed of. Before embarking on yet another LCA study of textile recycling, we wanted to know what has been done before – and as no one had ever done a systematic review of this, we had to do it ourselves. We found 41 studies, including ones on textile reuse, covering different kinds of materials, and recycling and reuse routes.


Recycling is good; reuse is better

The 41 studies provide strong support for claims about the environmental benefits of textile reuse and recycling, and that reuse is better than recycling. But they also expose instances in which reuse and recycling do not reduce environmental impact. When the so-called replacement factor is too low, which means the recycling or reuse does not lead to enough reduction of new materials, but rather adds to a growing market. Or when recycling or reuse relies too much on extra transportation, or when the recycling itself uses too many chemicals or energy. And as many combinations of materials and recycling routes have never been studied – most of the territory remains unexplored – we must be cautious about too generalised assumptions about textile recycling.

It’s a Nordic thing

Looking at the literature, textile recycling and reuse – or rather the study of its environmental consequences – seems to be mainly a European interest. 73% of these studies were conducted in Europe. The interest is particularly strong in the Nordic countries. Looking at studies written in the English language only, a mere three studies were on the US context, whereas 7 studies were Swedish – although the former country not only has English as the native language but is also 30 times larger population-wise.

Climate change in focus – some environmental problems disregarded

There are many environmental problems that could be relevant to consider, both to see the impact of the recycling itself and to see the gains of recycling versus not recycling. Water use, energy use, climate impact, chemical issues, biodiversity loss, to name a few. Still, many studies consider climate impact and not more than one or two other impacts (image below). So many benefits of recycling – and perhaps also some drawbacks – are seldom or never studied. For example, the reduced use of water, fertilisers and pesticides of less cotton cultivation – a likely consequence of reusing and recycling clothes – have barely been considered. Here LCA experts can do a much better work.


The path forward

Now we know that projects like Trash-2-Cash are worthwhile to pursue, but we also know we must watch our step, to make sure we are moving in the right direction and avoid pitfalls. We now know the knowledge we currently have and have identified the gaps in that knowledge that we must try and fill. We know what we are good at and we know what we can be better at.


Read Greg and Gustav’s article “Environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling – A review” in full here.


Outside the "Comfort Zone"


‘No pain, no gain’ is a familiar enough term for gym bunnies. Yet it’s also how some of the T2C researchers experienced the early stages of the project! Inter-disciplinarity is widely recognized as being key to progress in the field of design for the circular economy, but it’s not easy at first.


Kirsi Niinimäki, Marjaana Tanttu and Cindy Kohtala’s article Outside the ”Comfort Zone”: Designing Unknown in a Multidisciplinary Setting, published in The Design Journal in 2017, discusses the observations of the Aalto Arts team as they witnessed the wide range of partners getting down to work on the T2C project at the very beginning of the process. Here Kirsi explains the main findings from their observational reflection. 


A learning process

“As Trash-2-Cash’s various partners, with their different knowledge, backgrounds and working practices, attempted to work together and understand each other, multidisciplinary collaboration was very challenging at the outset. Scientific researchers are familiar with working in a lab setting, an environment totally unknown to business and industry people. Design researchers are used to facilitating workshops using unconventional creative methods. The challenge in T2C was to develop collaborative working methods that are design-driven and that can boost shared innovation development. This paper focused on the early phase of the T2C project, where collaboration was a learning process, and it described some elements that enabled or hindered the collaboration, as observed by the authors who are Aalto Arts researchers.


Outside the comfort zone

“The design-driven process itself has been experienced as a challenging way of working. Creative workshops have been the tool and setting, a kind of platform on which to build shared understanding and shared knowledge. In the early phase of the project, workshops served participants in getting to know each other, getting to know the subject area and, further, becoming familiar with the ways of working (creative practices). Design-driven processes and creative practices were not familiar to all participants. “Why are we doing this activity?” was a comment heard many times during workshops or after the sessions. The designers who work in the project did most of the planning work and facilitation of the workshops. As a result, the activities remained closer to the comfort zone of designers than that of material scientists. Several requests of clarifying the goal of creative activities can be a signal of having pushed material scientists too far outside their professional practices and their own comfort zones.

“It took quite a long time to understand that the project includes two different tempos; the material development advances more slowly than the design concept process. The two tempos caused a lot of discussion and critical comments especially in the third and fourth quarter of the project.


Goals and ambitions

“Setting a shared goal was challenging. Different disciplines had different understandings of the project’s goal. From the designers’ point of view, influencing material properties early on in the process is exactly the aim of a design-driven material innovation process. The designers want to push the boundary and reach high-quality properties that can add value to this new material. Designers bring to the table market- and user-centred viewpoints while simultaneously challenging material scientists to raise their ambitions.

“The other discussion was about the ambitions of the goal: are we aiming for a target that is easy to reach when the project ends or are we challenging ourselves a bit more and aiming for future scenarios which are more ambitious to achieve within the project timeline? Even so, the project goal for us has been quite vague and a shared understanding of what the material innovation was that we were aiming for was still missing, after one year working together. A shared goal helps to cross boundaries. In our case the future scenarios can be understood as boundary objects in the early stage, as “a map” towards a shared goal. Yet the shared goal has not been argued collectively and this caused some frustration for us during the process.


Bridging the gaps

“Knowledge gaps have also existed in the project. When there are deep knowledge gaps between disciplines, a new person is needed, a person with a different knowledge base and skillset than designers’. In unknown material innovation processes an intermediator is needed. In our case the intermediators have been textile engineers who have been needed between material science, industry and designers. Textile engineers are accustomed to communicate with all these fields and therefore they can represent the mediator who can visit different disciplines to create a link between them.”


You can read the full article on our publications page or access it from The Design Journal.


Meet Giada


As a designer at the forefront of materials innovation for bespoke product prototyping, Giada Dammacco's material world involves words like 'piezo-electric', 'double-face' and 'shape-shifting'. 

Here she talks to Rebecca Earley about the unique interdisciplinary set-up within the  organisation she co-founded - GradoZero - how her interest in circularity brought her into the Trash-2-Cash project and how continual learning feeds her design and materials innovation process.

Listen on Soundcloud or iTunes now!


The faces of circular textile research


Have you ever noticed how important being face-to-face is for understanding what someone is trying to tell you? Communicating in other ways (phone, text, twitter, skype, email…) can often lead to misunderstandings. During Trash-2-Cash workshops, Prof Rebecca Earley and Dr Rosie Hornbuckle explored the importance of the ‘face’ in a series of tasks aimed at helping people to communicate and collaborate better. 


Rosie now explains the approach and what they discovered. The full details can be found in their paper ‘A Meditation on the Faces of Circular Textile Research’ on our Publications and Progress page.   


Taking pictures

Much of what we do as designers is based on a ‘hunch’. When we began to work on the Trash-2-Cash project, faced with the challenge of getting all these different people from different countries to get along, Becky instinctively knew that using people’s faces could be a way of supporting and strengthening our relationships and help us to better understand one another. So she took her camera to Workshop 01 in Stockholm, Sweden, and did something that you maybe wouldn’t expect a Professor of Textile Design to do… she asked everyone if she could take their picture.


Making stickers 

At first we used these pictures to introduce people on the Trash-2-Cash website, but having this archive of faces lead me to think about how we could make the connections between people more real, help people to understand what we are all here to do, and how we could do it together. So I decided to map everyone’s expertise, I asked each person what they know most about and then created a spreadsheet. What we know about spreadsheets is that although they are very useful they are not very friendly or fun. If you want someone to be interested in your information, a spreadsheet is not the way! Instead, I created ‘face stickers’ from our archive of pictures.  Within the workshop coffee break we asked people to put their face within a poster of the project, so they could see themselves next to other people with similar knowledge, or they could see who they could talk to about fibre science or life cycle assessment or consumer studies. It was a very popular task, and as researchers we could see that this focus on faces was working.


Drawing each other 

To this point in Trash-2-Cash Becky had mainly been using her knowledge to run workshop sessions, interview people for podcasts and tell other people about the project. But Becky is a textile designer, she is happiest when making. So she took the idea of faces and decided to help everyone make something together… to anyone who was not a designer this may have seemed like a very strange idea for a scientific project workshop.


Becky used her previous design ideas, which involved using meditation, and asked people in pairs to draw each other’s faces. Becky then used these drawings to create a new piece of textile design by printing them onto an old polyester shirt. Although some people were uncomfortable doing this to begin with, they found it a positive experience. The workshops last for two days and are busy and intense – so the meditation followed by the drawing in silence gave people some much needed head space. In this kind of space our thoughts are different and so how we looked at our partners in this task changed.


I guess the surprising thing for us as design researchers was that we responded to the interdisciplinary workshop in a way we hadn’t expected to - we were able to positively influence the project and in turn it influenced us. A textile designer and a communication designer working together for the first time with very different outcomes but a common goal: helping people to work together.


Zdravo!: Reporting from workshop 10


The snowy mountains of Ajdovščina, Slovenia, greeted the Trash-2-Cash participants as they arrived for workshop 10 in early February.


As the project has progressed, so has our understanding of the ideal format for these project workshops. Now each participant has the opportunity to arrange focused ‘pre-meetings’ with one another before the main workshop begins, allowing people to discuss pressing issues face-to-face, which is so important for effective collaboration.

Each time we meet, the ‘Master cases’ have evolved with even more detail. When designers presented their concepts on Day 1 it was really exciting to see all of the different elements coming together: design ideas, material samples, prototypes, business models and life-cycle thinking. From what was an extremely murky beginning, now six concepts are emerging with ever-increasing clarity and tangibility. 

At each workshop the multi-disciplinary expertise adds a new layer to the master cases and this time it was all about building the ‘story’ behind the concept through the eyes of a customer, to better understand appropriate business models and market potential. The final session of the day focussed on the project methodology, asking the question: ‘what do we need in order to work in this way?’. At this stage in the project people are starting to reflect and realise what was important in the project and what was missing, and some consensus around these insights will help us to build a model for Design Driven Material Innovation (DDMI).

Tekstina hosted a wonderful evening for partners – one of the points highlighted in the previous session was that it’s so important to build social relationships as well as working ones, and seeing some of the local Slovenian culture helped understanding and cross-cultural relations enormously.    


Day 2 involved a more in-depth exploration of the business and life-cycle aspects of the master cases. It’s really about the ‘nitty gritty’ now; how to fine-tune the concepts and what we need to do in the final few months of the project to maximize material innovation.  

Then a fascinating tour of Tekstina’s textile production facilities, which gave insights not only into how the materials are produced but also the incredible knowledge and expertise of our hosts.

Finally, the ever important issues around how to use the knowledge we gain from the project after the funding ends. Projects like this are not only three years of research, they are stepping stones along the path to realizing new lower-impact clothes in shops and in peoples’ wardrobes, and new cars on the road. Most importantly it’s about real products made from innovative new materials that are part of an effective circular system, where ‘waste’ simply isn’t an issue because end-of-life products are valuable raw material for new production.        


What else do we know?


A forthcoming article by Dr Rosie Hornbuckle examining the facilitation of inter-disciplinary collaboration, based upon her T2C paper ‘What else do we know?’, is soon to be published in the Journal of Textile Design Research & Practice. Here Rosie breaks down her key findings from the research.


The most obvious reason to include designers in a project like Trash-2-Cash, where the aim is to develop a new fibre, is so they can use their product design and their experience to show scientists what they would like the new materials to be like. But in the workshops I noticed that designers were actually performing a number of important roles other than designing products, that were supporting the project work in different ways. 


Asking different questions

The first thing I saw early on in the project was that designers were asking questions you wouldn’t normally associate with fashion and textiles, like ‘could this material be useful for migration?’, ‘how would this perform as a recyclable healthcare garment?’ or ‘how would this affect levels of ocean plastic?’. Bringing ideas about social and environmental issues into the discussion was an interesting and unexpected influence of the design team.


Understanding one another

Designers are usually great communicators and on a project where each person is from a different country, or has a different work background; communication is an incredibly useful skill. What I observed was that some designers, particularly the materials specialists, were very good at explaining design stuff to scientists and getting scientists to stop and explain their stuff for designers when it got too complicated. This was so useful that the project could have done with more people with those skills. These people were also great at grabbing a material to help a designer and a scientist explain something to one another, like ‘how soft?’, ‘this soft?’. 


Using design tools      

Designers are great at finding ways to get other people to contribute their ideas; they have a tool for almost everything. Some of the design tools used in Trash-2-Cash were a bit baffling for scientists – they were too designy, too abstract, and difficult to understand what they were for. While other tools seemed to work really well, especially when there was a clear purpose, like the capability map (image below) which helped people to show where their knowledge fitted within the project.


What does this mean?

The great thing that we discovered was that designers have a lot more to offer this type of project – where lots of different specialists work together – than just designing products, they can actually support the teamwork as well as potentially take it in different directions than would have been possible if scientists or manufacturers were working alone. This is good, because this is how innovation happens, by stepping outside of traditional ways of working and trying something new, and designers have an even more valuable part to play than many thought before this project began.


Rosie's paper 'What Else Do We Know? Exploring the application of design knowledge and skills for the circular economy beyond materials selection and design for production' can be read in full here.


PLATE Conference: Product Lifetimes and the Environment

 TU Delft University 

TU Delft University 


Three of Trash-2-Cash’s key academic researchers, Associate Prof. Kirsi Niinimäki of Aalto University, Finland, Prof. Rebecca Earley and Dr Kate Goldsworthy of UAL, London, have been invited to present papers at the 2nd PLATE Conference to be held at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering of TU Delft, The Netherlands, November 8 –10, 2017.


PLATE is an international conference on Product Lifetimes and the Environment which Prof. Tim Cooper of Nottingham Trent University set up in 2015. He understood that moving to a more circular economy and increasing product longevity are key areas to explore in relation to a sustainable future.

Rebecca Earley and Kate Goldsworthy, co-directors of the Centre for Circular Design (CCD), are presenting a paper entitled, Playing for Time: seven practice-led workshop tools for making design decisions to extend the life of fashion textile materials and products as part of Mistra Future Fashion research.

The academic duo, throughout their careers have transferred practice into theory and vice versa in the field of sustainable textiles. The paper presents 7 inventive design tools to support fashion textile designers from a variety of backgrounds to extend the life of a garment. The tools range from design strategy cards through to lifecycle assessment approaches which include the use of metaphorical Speeding Tickets. These playful and creative methods are designed to enable the development of a design concept on paper for a product with an extended life.

The subject of slow fashion and long life is further discussed by the keynote speaker Kirsi Niinimäki in her paper entitled, Fast or slow? Fashion lifecycles in a circular economy context. Kirsi will be talking in depth about the differing methodological approaches and systems thinking in relation to fashion speeds.

Her research focuses on a holistic understanding of sustainable fashion and textile fields and connections between design, manufacturing, business models and consumption. The fashion/textile research group that she heads at Aalto University is involved in several significant research projects, which integrate closed loop, bio economy and circular economy approaches in fashion and textile systems.

Both papers reveal an immense depth of knowledge and creative inventiveness that have the potential to have a real impact on the future of sustainable textiles.


Building bridges in Helsinki: Reporting from workshop 09

 Design Museum Helsinki

Design Museum Helsinki


Finland, with its densely rich forests and scattered islands, provided the perfect backdrop to workshop 09 in its capital, Helsinki. Hosted by Aalto University over a period of three days, workshop 09 was based at The Design Museum in the historic centre and at Espoo, a stunning tree covered campus.


A pre-workshop session between the Methodology Team took place at Aalto Arts on Tuesday 19 September, where the partners discussed the methods models created to date, and began the process of crafting the meta-model for Design Driven Material Innovation (DDMI). A big black bus then took the team to The Design Museum, for a book launch and seminar for ‘Lost in the Woods’. Trash-2-Cash partners – Christian Tubito (Material Connexions Italy), Helena Wedin (Research Institutes of Sweden) and Michael Hummel (Aalto Arts) – presented results and insights from the project to date, to an audience of design-hungry students and public. (View ‘lost in the wood(s) book launch and seminar event’ blog post.)

Day 1 of Workshop 09 was centred around the academic partners meeting to discuss the ‘Master cases’ – concepts shortlisted from 33 ideas to 7 - covering fashion, new generation plastics and automotive interiors. Environmental impact, LCA, innovation, realistic business models and feasibility all had to be considered in great depth before arriving at these decisions. The main purpose of the workshop as a whole was to decide how to turn these cases into successful design products and prototypes.

The day began with an overview of the whole project along with thorough presentations of the 7 master cases.  This was followed by interactive and discussion sessions to assess how to move each case forward. Honest and difficult conversations were had, essential to innovation success.

To break from the intensity of the day a tour of the design museum was given with particular reference to the ‘Enter and Encounter’ exhibition, featuring work from Aalto University’s New Biomateriality Lab and referencing Trash-2-Cash work.

On day 2 the consortium was very much ‘Lost in the Wood (s)’ on a cold misty morning at the green leafy Aalto University campus in Espoo, where Aalto Chem are based. Surrounded by nature and spending most of the day in what looked like a luxury tree house, all technical aspects of the project were analysed. Manufacturing streams, recycling and business scenarios were all debated and discussed at length and processes put in place to move towards fully-formed prototypes. Existing and potential challenges were also addressed.

A tour of the Aalto Chem laboratories provided a fascinating insight into regenerated cellulose processing.  It was inspiring for everyone to be in a scientific environment free of harmful chemicals and that focussed on circular innovation.

The highlight of the day was to see the results of new Trash-2-Cash yarn and fabric developments. Despite the challenges ahead and technical aspects still to resolve, excitement was in the air as the consortium could see the potential and positive impact final realised prototypes and product designs will have on the environment and on industry.

At this important turning point fully formed products can now begin to emerge. Watch this space!



Silence Shirts presented at INTERSECTIONS 2017


Trash-2-Cash’s Becky Earley (UAL) presented the Silence Shirts project - a collaborative research methodology experiment undertaken during T2C workshops - at the INTERSECTIONS 2017 conference exploring collaboration in textile design research.


The Silence Shirts project demonstrates how the activities of silent meditation and portraiture were employed as effective tools in the establishment and development of the relationships between the designers, scientists and industry participants collaborating on the T2C research project.

Silence Shirts aimed to navigate issues that can be barriers to effective collaboration, such as language, culture and competence, by establishing a shared ‘baseline experience’ as a foundation from which the collaborations could be fostered.

A conference paper - titled ‘A meditation on the faces of circular textile research’ - co-authored with Rosie Hornbuckle (UAL) presented three experiments conducted to provoke new insights into the roles, knowledge and expertise of the members of the group which resulted in the project’s first co-created garment, the Silence Shirt, featuring a print design by Professor Earley collaged from the portraits painted by members of the project team.

Organised by the Textile Design Research Group at Loughborough University and held at the University’s London campus on 13 September 2017, the one-day conference examined case studies that reveal unusual connections and cross- or interdisciplinary collaborations in research in the fields of textile and textile design. The conference was accompanied by an exhibition of the work that emerged through the collaborations, including the Silence Shirt.

The Silence Shirt was also featured in the 2017 Biennial of Design in Ljubljana - BIO25 - as part of the ninth edition of Shirtings, a socially responsive initiative that offers unique shirts by Slovenian and London-based designers as ‘social-objects’ to be the 'responsibility' of a user for 10 days before being passed on to the next participant.


Meet Cansu


In the latest T2C podcast, Professor Becky Earley catches Cansu Musaoğlu, head of the dyeing department at Turkish textile producer and T2C partner Söktaş, just before she departs for her new position at a private university in Istanbul.

Recorded upon the conclusion of T2C Workshop 8 in Bilbao, Spain, Becky and Cansu discuss the drivers of sustainability for Söktaş, the importance of sustainability to their customers and how Design Driven Material Innovation (DDMI) has given Söktaş’ R&D department a completely new perspective and approach.

Söktaş is a fully integrated producer of cotton and cotton-blended fabrics for shirts, jackets and trousers, supplying many of the world’s leading fashion labels. As T2C partner Söktaş are key in the supply of cotton to textile waste, research on recycling products, fabric production from recycled yarn, laboratory testing and the production of prototypes.

Listen on Soundcloud or iTunes now!


Lost in the Wood(s) book launch and seminar event


T2C partner and host of the next T2C workshop in Helsinki, Aalto Arts are celebrating the launch of a new biomaterial-focused publication Lost in the Wood(s), a new Biomateriality in Finland with a seminar event at Design Museum Helsinki next month. 


Taking place September 19th, the seminar agenda includes a series of talks by T2C partners, including: Presenting the Trash-2-Cash project by Emma Östmark, Director of Sustainable Textile Fibres at the RISE Research Institute of Sweden; Interdisciplinary collaboration for material innovation by Christian Tubito, Project Manager of Research & Innovation at Material Connexion Italy; Waste-free future of the fashion industry - the chemistry behind it by Michael Hummel, Staff Scientist at Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering; and The need of improvements in textile sorting of garments for textile-to-textile recycling by Helena Wedin, Researcher at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden.

The second part of the event presents the new Aalto ARTS Books publication Lost in the Wood(s), edited by Pirjo Kääriäinen and Liisa Tervinen. Through inspiring case studies (including the T2C project) and stories from researchers working intimately with biomaterials, the book explores how Finland’s natural resource – renewable biomaterials, such as cellulose – could replace oil-based resources and create new business and service models through design and collaboration.

The seminar and book launch coincide with the current Biomateriality Lab installation, part of Design Museum Helsinki's Enter and Encounter exhibition, exploring new, primarily wood-based, Finish biomaterials developed through multidisciplinary research projects at Aalto University. The exhibition is open until 22nd October 2017.

Buy the book from the Aalto Arts online shop.

Time: Tuesday 19th September, 15:00 - 18:00
Location: Design Museum Helsinki auditorium, Korkeavuorenkatu 23, Helsinki, Finland
Organizers: Professor Kirsi Niinimäki, Team Leader of the Fashion/Textile FUTURES research group, Aalto University, and Pirjo Kääriäinen, Designer in Residence at the Fashion/Textile FUTURES research group, Aalto University


T2C present at MATCOMP 2017


Trash-2-Cash research innovations by partners Cidetec were presented at the MATCOMP 2017 congress in San Sebastian, Spain (21-23 June)


Matcomp provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of R&D led projects in the field of composites and high performance materials.

Virginie Boucher and Aratz Genua from CIDETEC presented their research findings as a poster entitled “Recyclable thermoset composites derived from waste textiles”

The display was presented as part of the “Recycling and sustainability” themed session and highlighted how reinforced plastics can find applications in untapped industry sectors, through design driven technologies in a circular economy.

From a technical perspective, the poster explained the production of recyclable thermoset composites made with fabrics obtained from waste textiles and epoxy or polyurethane resins. The visuals also addressed the process of how fibre and resin can be recovered for reuse.

The project was extremely well received and Cidetec continue with their research innovations for Trash 2 Cash.


T2C at Autex International 2017


At the end of May T2C researcher Professor Rebecca Earley attended the Autex International Textiles conference 2017, themed 'Shaping the Future of Textiles'.


The venue was in sunny Corfu, where 412 delegates met over three days to see 309 papers and 118 posters.

Rebecca presented a paper written with Dr Rosie Hornbuckle which explored the use of the simple postcard as a communication tool within the project; 'Postcards from the Edge: Trash-2-Cash communication tools used to support inter-disciplinary work towards a Design Driven Material Innovation (DDMI) methodology'.

In this paper, postcards from the EU funded Horizon 2020 Trash-2-Cash (2015-2018) project - completed by workshop participants – were presented in three tables with a focus on how they contributed to the building of communication channels, shared understanding and methods, in this inter-disciplinary consortium work. This inter-disciplanarity is key to achieving the project aims – but communication between sectors is challenging due to diverse expertise and levels of experience; language and cultural differences can also be barriers to collaboration as well. Designing easy and accessible, even fun, communication tools are one of the ways to help build relationships. 

The cards reviewed were used in Prato (November 2015), Helsinki (February 2016) and London (November 2016). The paper concluded with insights for the ongoing development of the project communications work towards the Design Driven Material Innovation (DDMI) methodology, due to be presented at the end of the project in 2018. 

Conference proceedings will be published in due course; for more information go to the Autex website.


T2C at Milan Design Fair

 Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala [left] visiting T2C both with MCI CEO Emilio Genovesi

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala [left] visiting T2C both with MCI CEO Emilio Genovesi


Between 4-9 April 2017 Material Connexion Italia (MCI) presented the work of Trash-2-Cash at the Milan Design Fair.


This year’s Materials Village focused on the theme “New Materials for a Smart City” [with the patronage of the Municipality of Milan] and featured a dedicated booth for T2C including the first material samples to emerge from the project. 

The Materials Village was hosted at Superstudio Più, one of the most renowned locations of Fuorisalone [the design fair that takes place on the same days as the Salone Internazionale del Mobile]. This year more than 130,000 visitors came through the Superstudio Più, a mix of design professionals, and the design-oriented public.

The “New Materials for a Smart City” exhibition also included a podium space where discussions and presentations related to innovation and smart manufacturing were held on a daily basis with over 1,000 participants. As the T2C booth was at the entrance to this area it was well-visited and attracted a good response from groups of people who will be interested in the eventual outcomes of our research. 

Check out an album of photos from the event on the T2C Facebook page. 

Veronica Sarbach, Material Connexion Italia


Upcycling fast fashion...


...To Reduce Waste & Pollution

T2C partners Aalto Chem presented their research earlier this month at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). You can see the full press conference with Simone Haslinger and Dr Michael Hummel on YouTube, or read on for the ACS account of the event. 


SAN FRANCISCO, April 2, 2017 — Pollution created by making and dyeing clothes has pitted the fashion industry and environmentalists against each other. Now, the advent of “fast fashion” — trendy clothing affordable enough to be disposable — has strained that relationship even more. But what if we could recycle clothes like we recycle paper, or even upcycle them? Scientists report today new progress toward that goal.

The team will present the work at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 14,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

“People don’t want to spend much money on textiles anymore, but poor-quality garments don’t last,” Simone Haslinger explains. “A small amount might be recycled as cleaning rags, but the rest ends up in landfills, where it degrades and releases carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Also, there isn’t much arable land anymore for cotton fields, as we also have to produce food for a growing population.”

All these reasons amount to a big incentive to recycle clothing, and some efforts are already underway, such as take-back programs. But even industry representatives admit in news reports that only a small percentage gets recycled. Other initiatives shred used clothing and incorporate the fibers into carpets or other products. But Haslinger, a doctoral candidate at Aalto University in Finland, notes that this approach isn’t ideal since the carpets will ultimately end up in landfills, too.

A better strategy, says Herbert Sixta, Ph.D., who heads the biorefineries research group at Aalto University, is to upcycle worn-out garments: “We want to not only recycle garments, but we want to really produce the best possible textiles, so that recycled fibers are even better than native fibers.” But achieving this goal isn’t simple. Cotton and other fibers are often blended with polyester in fabrics such as “cotton-polyester blends,” which complicates processing.

Previous research showed that many ionic liquids can dissolve cellulose. But the resulting material couldn’t then be re-used to make new fibers. Then about five years ago, Sixta’s team found an ionic liquid — 1,5-diazabicyclo[4.3.0]non-5-ene acetate — that could dissolve cellulose from wood pulp, producing a material that could be spun into fibers. Later testing showed that these fibers are stronger than commercially available viscose and feel similar to lyocell. Lyocell is also known by the brand name Tencel, which is a fiber favored by eco-conscious designers because it’s made of wood pulp.

Building on this process, the researchers wanted to see if they could apply the same ionic liquid to cotton-polyester blends. In this case, the different properties of polyester and cellulose worked in their favor, Haslinger says. They were able to dissolve the cotton into a cellulose solution without affecting the polyester.

“I could filter the polyester out after the cotton had dissolved,” Haslinger says. “Then it was possible without any more processing steps to spin fibers out of the cellulose solution, which could then be used to make clothes.”

To move their method closer to commercialization, Sixta’s team is testing whether the recovered polyester can also be spun back into usable fibers. In addition, the researchers are working to scale up the whole process and are investigating how to reuse dyes from discarded clothing.

But, Sixta notes, after a certain point, commercializing the process doesn’t just require chemical know-how. “We can handle the science, but we might not know what dye was used, for example, because it’s not labeled,” he says. “You can’t just feed all the material into the same process. Industry and policymakers have to work on the logistics. With all the rubbish piling up, it is in everyone’s best interest to find a solution.”

The researchers received funding support from the European Union’s Trash-2-Cash project and the Finnish government.

This press release was originally published by the American Chemical Society. The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With nearly 157,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.


Chemically recycled garment prototype


Presented in Stockholm, 3-4 April 2017

Last year a team from Finland (including T2C partners Aalto University and VTT, alongside University of Helsinki) won the Global Change Award (GCA), an annual innovation challenge organised by the H&M foundation*.


Their entry was to ‘Make waste cotton new’ using Ioncell-F technology. Since last year’s award, Aalto University has been prototyping various knit structures using Ioncell-F yarns, and at this year’s awards Pirjo Kääriäinen from Aalto’s GCA winning team and Essi Karell from T2C have exhibited a garment prototype to demonstrate how far they’ve come in 12 months.

The prototype is a translucent ivory coloured top with delicate frilled detailing. The fabric resembles linen, with the softness of cotton. The top is constructed with a combination of hand and machine stitching.

Essi Karell, Doctoral Student from T2C partner Aalto says “Although the samples of chemically recycled materials we are currently knitting and testing are small, they provide strong evidence of what is possible, and will hopefully inspire designers to adopt circular practices resulting in a real change in the fashion industry.”

The prototype was also shown in the H&M Change Makers Lab at Fotografiska, Stockholm. This event brought together around 250 change makers (including partners, innovators, governments, investors, trade unions, NGO's, other brands) to:

  • explore how to accelerate the shift from linear to circular
  • understand the potential of new technologies and transparency
  • emphasise the power of human rights and social impact

and, most importantly, to collaborate and challenge the existing practices together.

*More about H&M Global Change Award and the winners here. A €1 million grant is shared by five winners that show potential to shape the fashion industry and to help protect the planet. This year the grant was divided according to the public's votes at Stockholm City Hall, 4 April 2017.