note | 15.05.2023

bifa-Text Nr.: 73: Study shows economic potential of textile recycling for Bavaria

The Bavarian economy sees great opportunities in textile recycling and the development of a textile circular economy in Bavaria. As part of the study "Economic potentials of textile recycling and hydrogen production from textile waste in Bavaria" sponsored by the Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, the vbw - Vereinigung der Bayerischen Wirtschaft e. V. (Association of Bavarian Business) and the Association of the Bavarian Textile and Clothing Industry (VTB), various recycling processes were examined and evaluated.

Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger: "Textiles, especially fast fashion produced cheaply and in short cycles, contribute significantly to the volume of waste. That is why we need economically and ecologically sensible solutions in the field of textile recycling. The study is a pioneering work. It provides an excellent overview of textile waste generation and recycling options. We now know, for example, that the production of hydrogen from old clothes is not profitable at the moment. Nevertheless, Bavaria has every chance of becoming a model region for the textile recycling economy. We are also now optimally prepared for the strategy announced by the EU for sustainable and recyclable textiles."

As part of the study, the existing and future mass flows for used textiles were recorded for the first time. The data can help Bavarian companies with investment decisions in used textile processing and the implementation of industrial solutions. A spatial analysis certifies that the Augsburg conurbation along the A8 motorway in particular has a favourable infrastructure in terms of waste generation, logistics and research and industrial expertise, and thus ideal conditions for establishing a textile recycling economy.

Bertram Brossardt, CEO of the vbw, emphasises: "I see great potential for an economically and ecologically successful circular economy particularly in the combination of environmental technologies, for example in the area of recycling, and our strengths in automation and artificial intelligence. In this field, the Bavarian economy can once again become a pioneer in sustainability and at the same time increase its competitiveness. However, this presupposes that the right framework conditions for innovation are consistently created, especially at the EU level".

Managing Director Stefan Satl of the Bavarian Textile and Clothing Industry Association adds: "The business model of the mainly small and medium-sized companies in the Bavarian textile and clothing industry is regularly not designed for fast fashion, but for the most sustainable and resource-saving management possible. In this sense, the study shows how textile recycling can be set up in Bavaria for the local companies. In addition to innovative technical concepts and close networking between industry and research, this will require targeted funding measures.

One particular aspect of the study was the question of whether textile waste is suitable for hydrogen production on an industrial scale in Bavaria. Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Rommel, Managing Director of bifa Umweltinstitut, says: "In relation to the forecast hydrogen demand in Bavaria of 10 terrawatt hours per year from 2030, textile waste that cannot be materially recycled can only make a small contribution of around 0.2 terrawatt hours. From today's perspective, it therefore makes little sense to produce hydrogen from textile waste. For this to happen, the framework conditions, especially the market price for hydrogen, would have to change significantly. Therefore, in order to recycle textile resources, investments should first be made in modern collection systems and in material recycling technologies. In this context, it must not be ignored that from an ecological point of view, the avoidance of textile waste must be given priority. This means, among other things, that textile products must have a longer lifespan, but also that reuse must be strengthened. For this to be economically successful, future-proof sorting technology for clothing textiles is required, which surprisingly does not yet exist."

The study also looked at different processes for recycling textile waste and the technologies used. Prof. Dr. Stefan Schlichter from Augsburg University of Applied Sciences: "There are various recycling technologies with very different levels of development that complement each other and can be optimised for specific and concrete areas of application with further research. With the knowledge gained in this way, implementation perspectives for the disposal as well as the textile and clothing industry can then be derived within the framework of competence centres such as the Recycling Atelier Augsburg."

The research results will be shared with industry via the TEXTILE INNOVATION network at Bayern Innovativ. For example, the study will be presented at the Textil Innovativ symposium in Augsburg on 18 July 2023. Members of vbw and VTB will also receive the study. Minister of Economics Aiwanger: "We are taking up the impetus of the study and bringing science, the textile industry and waste management even closer together on the subject of recycling. Together we want to use the study results for innovative solutions in practice."

The study can be downloaded from the bifa and ITA-Augsburg websites:

bifa-Text Nr 73: Study shows economic potentials of textile recycling for Bavaria f

„Ökonomische Potenziale des Textilrecyclings und der Wasserstofferzeugung aus Textilabfällen in Bayern“