Bale of mixed textiles before sorting

From Rags to Riches: Textile Recycling Enters a New Era

Textile recycling in Europe is now evolving with a sense of urgency as it becomes clear that the discarding of garments and apparels of clothing represent a major threat to the environment.

Governments are now catching up with the threat; in Europe, the latest regulations mean that the whole fashion and clothing industry has to completely rethink how textiles are managed at end-of-life. ANDRITZ has been aware of the situation for some time and has been working on solutions and innovations to counter the challenge. In its latest move, the company has partnered with textile experts in France to launch a major revolution in automated sorting for further recycling into new products.

It is estimated that around 7.5 million tons of textiles are discarded in Europe every year. Currently only 2.2 tons are collected, with the rest going to landfill or incineration. Due to new regulations, the volume of textiles collected is estimated to rise by 4.5 – 7.2 million tons by 2030.

“The new regulations mean that by 2025, all European countries will no longer be able to dispense of clothing by landfill or burning,” says Alexandre Butté, General Manager, ANDRITZ Laroche. “All of these countries will have to have collection systems in place by that time.”

The landscape of textile disposal in France in particular has shifted dramatically in recent years. Ten years ago the country introduced an EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) for the industry which has led to an increased collection of textiles, household linen and footwear. Similar EPRs have also been adopted by many countries worldwide over the past few years. In 2022, 260,000 tons were collected in France which represents 30% of textiles sold that year. In its latest move, the French government has set a target of a 60% collection rate by 2028. Currently, 95% of textiles collected and sorted in France are reused or recycled outside of the country. The reason this huge percentage of collected textiles are exported is because, so far, there has been no economical automated sorting solution to make recycling of textiles viable.


To address this dramatic upscale of regulations, French startup company, Nouvelles Fibres Textiles, has recently launched a revolutionary new industrial-scale line in Amplepuis (central France). This unique line is designed to speedily and autonomously sort discarded garments by color and composition utilizing the very latest in digital and infrared technology. The entire line has been supplied by ANDRITZ, with infrared technology supplied by French company Pellenc ST, also a partner in the new venture. Added to the sorting of garments, the line will remove non-textile parts of garments including zippers and buttons and start the first stage of tearing. The remaining sorted garments are then sent on for further processing by textile producers for further tearing and on to either spinning for the production of new products, including nonwovens and composite materials.

Bale of mixed textiles before sorting


Nouvelles Fibres Textiles was formed by two seasoned entrepreneurs in the textile industry in France, Eric Boel, who is General Director, Les Tissages de Charlieu (LTC), and Etienne Wiroth, who is General Director, Synergies TLC. Both companies are specialist in their areas, with LTC being a “living heritage” in the weaving of textiles for clothes and bags. LTC is a specialist in the automation of the weaving production process and has a long experience in the use of recycled textile raw material. Synergies TLC focuses on collected textile sorting and is involved in numerous research and innovation projects aimed at optimizing the sorting process of used textiles.

“The goal with Nouvelles Fibres Textiles is to trigger the circular economy at an industrial scale when it comes to the sorting and recycling of textiles in France,” explains Boel. “The technology used in the new demonstration plant, supplied by our partners, ANDRITZ and Pellenc ST, represents the missing link to the industrialization of textile recycling.”

Wiroth adds, “Up until now we have been exporting 50% of our recovered textiles to countries such as Pakistan and India, this is because in France we haven’t yet had the technology to economically sort collected textiles by composition and color. This new automated approach to sorting will make all the difference to the recycling of textiles in France.” 

Sorted clips by color to be processed



Although the recycling of textiles is nothing new in the industry, the main challenge has been the automating of the sorting process. As can be imagined, this sorting is a demanding task, simply because of the range of composition, colors and sizes involved. Nouvelles Fibres Textiles, decided to take on this mammoth task, but it needed help; and this is where ANDRITZ, with its vast experience in the recycling industry and the building of complete manufacturing lines, joined the challenge, together with specialist provider of infrared sensors for sorting, Pellenc ST. All four companies are now in partnership on the project which will see the line running on 60% commercial operations with 40% of time set aside for R&D.

Nouvelles Fibres Textiles line equipped with ANDRITZ and Pellenc ST technologies


“This truly is an equal partnership between four specialist companies,” says Butte “First of all we have the expertise in collection and sorting from Synergies followed by Les Tissages de Charlieu and its long experience of knowhow in fibers and recycling for manufacturing textiles. Then ANDRITZ comes in with its deep knowledge of providing technology and complete lines for textile recycling and production. The loop is then completed by Pellenc ST and its dedicated high-tech sensors purpose-built for the sorting of textiles.”

Jean Henin, General Manager, Pellenc ST adds, “This is the perfect four-way partnership, we have a collection expert and a textile producer along with ANDRITZ as a technology and service provider paired with extensive experience in processing fibers. Pellenc ST brings in the vital component of sorting technology that will separate the collected textiles into the different materials, including cotton and polyesters, as well a lot of different sizes and colors. The automation of the sorting completes the vision that will make the whole process of recycling textiles much more economically viable.”

Textiles sorted by color


Sorting process into Pellenc ST Mistral machine


The plant was launched at the end of 2023 to an audience of guests from all over Europe, and included politicians, industry players, universities and textile technical institutions.  The event included a demonstration of the line, as well as speeches from the partners of the project and a panel discussion featuring major customers of the textile industry in France, including the French supermarket giant Auchan.

Andreas Lukas, Senior Vice President and Division Manager Nonwoven and Textile at ANDRITZ, says of the project, “The partners of Nouvelles Fibres Textiles knocked on our door at ANDRITZ Laroche two years ago and we sat around a table and discussed the challenges they had. It helped that they were already satisfied ANDRITZ customers. It so happened that we were also looking into finding similar solutions in sorting which meant there was already concrete synchronicity of ideas and ambitions. This project is a perfect demonstration of collaboration across many different networks.” 

Charles Junker, Sales Director, ANDRITZ Laroche, adds, “The Nouvelles Fibres Textiles line at Amplepuis is the perfect combination of working partners, which means we have been able to bring the plant online in short space of time; just 15 months since the signing of contracts. It also illustrates how quickly we can move when full capacity lines are required in the future. 

“The plant is also in the perfect location. This area of France has textile recycling in its DNA with a deep history of manufacturing and recycling. In addition, the Amplepuis site is only a short drive from ANDRITZ Laroche which means we can offer our technical support, as well as carry out combined R&D work on the new line with our existing 2000m² technical center dedicated to fibers processing.”


The new automated textile sorting and recycling plant represents the first step in a journey that will see millions of tons discarded textiles collected, sorted and recycled for making new products in the future. As a signal to the opportunities ahead, Nouvelles Fibres Textiles has already laid the foundations for a full-scale recovered textile preparation plant which will have an annual capacity of 25,000 tons of post-consumer textile waste planned for start-up in 2025.

Benoit Rombaut, Technology Director, ANDRITZ Laroche, says, “The line is the first and important milestone of a long journey. In France, due to tightening regulations and the increased collection rate of 60% of all textiles manufactured, there is now around 240,000 tons of textiles for recycling. In three years’ time this will raise to 300,000 tons. This means that we need at least another 12 high-capacity sorting and recycling lines to cope with the demand.

Nouvelles Fibres Textiles’ circular and sustainable ecosystem with ANDRITZ technology



ANDRITZ Laroche has huge experience in the recycling of textiles, with both mechanical and chemical solutions. Now with its expertise in sorting, complete lines from collected textiles to full recycling is possible, representing a revolution in circularity for the industry.

“At ANDRITZ we are completing our goal with the new line,” says Butte. “We can now provide a one-stop-shop for our customers and provide complete lines for textile recycling from sorting to mechanical or chemical recycling.”

“We provide lines that can sort garments by composition and color, refine them, remove buttons and zips, and then create clean fiber to be used for spinning/yarn production, nonwovens and composite materials, all from under the one roof of ANDRITZ recycling solutions.”   

 “The new line from ANDRITZ, along with the sorting technology from Pellenc ST, means that operators can now simply push a button and obtain exactly the type of textile they want to go on for further recycling,” adds Rombaut. “The line allows for multiple combinations of composition and color, and is fully automated with the latest in digital technology to make sure that no element of the collected textile goes to waste.”

Michael Waupotitsch, Vice President Textile Recycling   sums up the company’s ambitions in the recycled textile sector going forward, “ANDRITZ intends to be a full line technology supplier offering complete packages from one place. Our aim is to become the market leader in this area, and be the first choice for our customers whether they are new or existing.

“What can our customers expect? Professionalism and top-quality technology and equipment, combined with decades of experience in areas that are relevant to textile recycling. We have vast experience in classical mechanical recycling with tearing and shredding technology and services, fiber processing, dewatering, drying and chemical and water recycling. Being a global international supplier of recycling technology and having a broad team of experts and operating pilot plants, ANDRITZ is ready to serve the textile recycling industry all around the world.”       

“And as less than 1% of materials used to produce clothing worldwide are recycled to produce new clothing, recycled textile producers have a big potential to grow,” concludes Waupotitsch. 

ANDRITZ supplied the entire textile sorting line, including a material reception and distribution module, composition and color sorting module (complete with Pellenc ST infrared sorting technology), conveyors dedicated to preset flows, a cutting module and a module for non-textile parts removal and the first stage of tearing.

Aiming to process 1000 tons per year, the line is able to handle whole garments as well as scraps or production offcuts. It is designed to process all types of textile materials including cotton, polyester, polyamide, viscose, wool and silk.