The innovation is a new technology that allows production of a cotton-like fiber out of textile, cardboard and agricultural waste and pulp. The technology does not compromise the quality of the fiber, and it can be used as a substitute to virgin cotton material.
The use of technology has a direct impact on reducing the need for virgin materials, water usage in producing cotton and decreasing the amount of waste in landfills. Therefore, the innovation clearly contributes to achievement of several sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Hanken School of Economics
The innovation responds to the growing material needs of the textile industry, while bringing at the same time enormous social, environmental and economic impact to the textile industry’s value chain and supporting its transformation from linear to circular industry. Due to shortage in raw materials such as cotton, the textile industry is changing the way they are using the raw materials and which materials they are using.
The production of this new innovative fiber is sustainable and economically friendly in many ways, thus contributing to achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The fiber is made out of recycled textile waste, pulp, cardboard waste or agricultural waste. The new high-quality fiber is bio-gradable, and its production process does not require any hazardous chemicals, is carbon neutral and cost efficient.
The company’s innovation is unique, as it is stable for impurities in the raw material. Most of the competitors need to use pure 100 percent cotton as their raw material and they also produce raw materials such as cellulose while IFC produces the cotton itself.
Clothes produced with Infinited Fiber
The company’s and technology’s origins are in the Finnish Technical Research Centre VTT that started to study this technology in the mid-1990s. Six years ago the scientists experimented with the technology to find out whether high quality textile fibers could be produced from different waste materials, such as newspapers, banana boxes and old jeans and found out that it worked.
The CEO, Mr. Petri Alava, is an experienced executive of several Finnish businesses who is passionate about building and growing new businesses.
“When I turned 50 ( started to think that I’d like to contribute to making the world a better place. What attracted me about the IFC technology was the fact that it addresses several aspects of the sustainability challenges we are facing currently. Once I learnt more about the sustainability and waste problems, I got attracted to this business idea even more.’’
The Infinited Fiber Company’s innovation is at the core of the current sustainable development discussion. The production of clothes has doubled during the last 15 years and is forecasted to double again in the next 15 years. At the same time, the global fashion industry is concerned about their supply of raw materials such as cotton. The cotton fields are currently operating in their maximum yield levels and are forecasted to produce less cotton in 2030 than currently. Also, the question of waste management from old clothes is a pressing issue visible in landfills.
The technology allows usage of a wide range of raw materials, and it can process mixed fabrics, since materials unsuitable for new fibers can be removed during the process. The fiber separation stage removes non-cellulosic components like polyester, elastane etc.
By regenerating new virgin fibers, Infinited Fiber reduces the usage of virgin natural materials, and decreases textile waste thrown into landfill.
As a start-up company, the IFC ’s whole business is built around the innovation and from the financial perspective the company is still in its early stages. The development of process technologies from a laboratory environment to an industrial scale production consists of steps that take some time.
Currently, the IFC runs a 50-tonne pilot plant in Finland, and it has managed to establish partnership with leading global brands such as H&M. The CEO explains that IFC has strategically chosen to work with the biggest textile companies pointing out that these are the companies that are making the material changes. Now that IFC has been able to produce the evidence that the innovation and technology work, the next step is to scale it in industrial spectrum. In 2020 there will become first capsule collections from some global brands using this technology to the markets. In 2021 the first industrial scale licenses can be sold meaning that industrial scale production could start in 2022.
Due to the reduced availability of cotton, demand for the technology is huge. Consequently, the customer base has expressed significant interest, as verified through the partnership with H&M. The innovation is well-integrated with the objectives of the global fashion industry concerns of their sourcing of raw materials, and close cooperation with the textile industry is essential to develop the technology further.
The company truly has the potential of being an important part of saving the planet, but also doing a sustainable and successful business simultaneously.
The societal and environmental benefits of the innovation can be easily expressed in terms of the UN Sustainability Goals.
The most important and obvious one is the global availability of fresh water (SDG 6). Replacement of cotton with Infinited Fiber would result in reduced water usage. 20 000 liters of water is required for production of 1kg of cotton, while the water footprint of the recycled fiber is around 2 per cent of that of virgin cotton. Replacing cotton with viscose and other artificial materials is not the solution due to microfibers washed into the water system via washing textiles, thus damaging our marine ecosystem.
The Second SDG relates to availability of food and capability to feed people (SDG 2). According to some studies there is a need to grow food production by 68 percent by 2030. In many countries arable land is used to grow cotton to meet the textile industry’s demand. With the help of IFC technology there is an increased possibility of being able to use the farmlands to grow food.
The third SDG contributes to addressing the global waste problem (SDG 12) taking into account that textile waste is a growing problem to landfills which cause methane emissions to the atmosphere. The innovation allows current waste to be collected and used as material.
If the technology is adopted in developing countries it may also contribute to social advancements through technologically advanced and better paid jobs (SDG 1). IFC technology fosters also innovation (SDG 9) and partnerships (SDG 17).
Petri Alava, CEO
Keep this story going! Share below!
Business Website: https://infinitedfiber.com/
Year Founded: 2016
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Infinited Fiber Company (“IFC”) is a Finnish start-up company that has developed a carbon neutral fiber regeneration technology that can turn textile, cardboard and agricultural waste and pulp into a new cotton like fiber for the usage of the global textile industry.
Currently, a 50t plant is operational, producing fiber for small-scale manufacture of bedsheets, sweaters and t-shirts in order to collect evidence material for the textile companies. Industrial scale production is estimated to start in 2022.