Technical textiles

Recycling smart textiles

Interview with Sebastian Leis, STFI

1. STFI is researching recycling of smart textiles. What are smart textiles? We as the Saxon Textile Research Institute define smart textiles as textiles with additional functions. Either to convert, produce or transport energy or to react on external influences. 

2. Which materials need to be recycled and what are the challenges of recycling them? There are basic textile materials, as expected. Furthermore, metals, carbon fibres or different plastics and various pieces of foreign matter, like connecting parts, zip fasteners or buttons. In theory, everything is recyclable but only for certain materials is it or will it be economically realizable and ecologically worthwhile. The challenge for the next years will be to develop energy-efficient methods for the recovery and their assessment in the economic and ecologic context of (reusable) materials.

3. Which approaches for a solution can be imagined and which of these approaches will STFI research? Due to the heterogeneity of the products, approaches from all recycling branches are important. Mechanical, chemical and thermal processes will have to play a role in the management of the waste. With our experience, we will contribute in all areas, although mechanical treatment and separation will loom large.

4. Who are the STFI-partners and what is their part in this project? We work with a wide network of partners. These are companies from textile sorting and recycling, preparation machine construction, electrical engineering and sensor technology, and national and foreign research institutes, mainly on a European level. And, of course, with the sometimes very fragmented textile and plastics industry.

5. Which goals does STFI expect to reach by when? What is the road map? In five years, we want to be one of the leading textile research institutes in the field of technical smart textiles. Simultaneously we will expand our experiences and capabilities to be one of the main contacts for the industry and, therefore, we are investing in a semi-industrial facility system for circular economy and sustainability. 

6. For how long is this research planned? Research tasks are endless – from every result, there are other challenges and very clever approaches for the solution emerging that have not been predictable.

Important for us are the co-operation with and input from the industry that define our research emphases. “

Mr Leis, thank you for explaining.

Sächsisches Textilforschungsinstitut e.V. (STFI), An-Institut der Technischen Universität Chemnitz , D-09125 Chemnitz,