RFID-technology textiles

RFID-technology for increased textile recycling

2 February, 2017

The Swedish Innovation Agency has granted Swerea IVF SEK 2,1 million for a project that investigates the possibility of using RFID technology, Radio Frequency Identification, to make the handling of textile materials more effective. 

Textiles are a kind of waste that, to a large extent, reflects an unsustainable consumption. Throwing textiles away is a waste of resources. Therefore, there is intense work going on to reuse and recycle textiles instead of throwing it in the trash.

In retail, complex textile materials are handled. These textiles are composed of several different types of fibres, dyed with different types of dyeing systems and, in many cases, different types of surface treatment. In order to facilitate better traceability and substantially improve the handling of textile materials at end-of-life, innovative solutions are required, particularly regarding sorting, to increase the possibility of increased textile recycling resulting in products of high value.

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification and is used in ordinary bar codes today. An RFID-tag is able to hold a considerable amount of information and can be read just by being close to a reading device, which means it can be placed anywhere in a garment without in any way compromising the quality of the reading. Using a system like this will facilitate the handling to a great extent, compared to e.g. bar code-systems, which can neither read from a distance nor contain the same amount of information. Furthermore, a label like that must be taken out from the garment and be displayed to the reading device, significantly reducing the effectiveness and speed.

An RFID-system can be adapted, and allow sorting of textiles based on any given set of parameters. As an example, a system like that would allow the sorting of textiles that contain a particular unwanted chemical that is no longer allowed in textile products, it can sort based on ”simple” parameters, such as colour or size but it can also handle sorting on motre complex parameters such as processing details, e.g. which dyeing system that has been used. The system would quickly and efficiently be able to sort textiles in a large amount of fractions, in accordance with the parameters you choose, the result of which will be access to textile volumes appropriate for different types of recycling techniques in a very effective, fast, exact and safe manner, with a very small margin of error. A large-scale implementation of this type of technology will result in a great possibility of using textile waste as raw material.