ECO-INNOVATIONat the heart of European policies
The 5.4 million people of Slovakia produce up to 100,000 tonnes of textile waste per year, according to one estimate. Some of this is collected via clothing banks or charity shops, but even in this case, a large proportion – perhaps between 40% and 60% – cannot be recycled or reused and is sent to landfill or incineration. Only about 30% is good enough to be sold second-hand.
In between the second-hand market and waste disposal, however, there is an opportunity to reprocess old garments into new products. SK-Tex, a Slovakian recycling company, is working to give old clothes a new life and, in doing so, makes a significant dent in the discarded clothing pile: it reprocesses some 4,500 tonnes per year, equivalent to about 4.5% of Slovakia’s textile waste total. It believes it could increase its processing of old clothing to 10,000 tonnes per year.
SK-Tex takes old clothing and turns it into products that can be used in cars, furniture and buildings. The company has been in operation since 1998, beginning as a textile raw materials trading company before developing into a recycling company. Its first products made from secondary raw materials were aimed at the automotive sector: textile panels and mats used for noise reduction in cars, or for lining car boots, for example.
It now specialises in construction materials: interior and exterior insulation and prefabricated wall panels sold under the name EkosenHMC. Its recycled-textile insulation products are mould-resistant and fire-retardant and have significant advantages in terms of heat retention and achievement of a stable internal temperature, according to SK-Tex. EkosenHMC insulation also scores in the highest category for noise reduction, and acts effectively to control moisture, making it, according to the company, a beneficial insulation material for people suffering from allergies or asthma.
The product is a viable alternative to insulation based on inorganic fibres – such as mineral and glass wool. Production of mineral and glass wool is from non-renewable virgin materials and involves energy-intensive processes; by contrast EkosenHMC is a recycled product produced far less energy-intensively. SK-Tex’s insulation can be recycled again when removed from buildings.
In a truly circular initiative, the insulation panels can either be made entirely from recycled cotton fibres, or can come in the form of ‘Stered,’ a textile made of 50% cotton and 50% recovered and recycled synthetic fabrics from the automotive industry – such as seat covers and car interior linings. In its use of Stered, SK-Tex partners with the company PR Krajné, which developed a first-of-its-kind production line to process the synthetic fabric materials from old cars and make them into new products.
The products manufactured from old clothing by Sk-Tex have proved a success in terms of exports. In addition to its home market, the company sells to clients in Czechia, France, Germany and Poland. SK-Tex is now Slovakia’s largest textiles recycling company. It is developing an increasing range of partnerships, for example with retailers Lidl in Poland and Kaufman in Germany, which provide SK-Tex with old work clothing for recycling.
SK-Tex celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2018. For every 1000 kilogrammes of waste fabric it can produce about 40 cubic metres of insulation, which is about the amount needed for an average house – and is also about the volume that would be incinerated or sent to landfill if the company did not reprocess it. In manufacturing insulation from old clothing, the company works to a simple motto: let the houses be dressed well!
Further information: http://www.sk-tex.com/