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How NIR Spectroscopy Is Revolutionising Textile Recycling

You may have heard that global fashion retailer H&M has been increasing the number of apparel options in its stores made using recycled material. There is increasing consumer demand for textile recycling, given sustainability being an issue of growing importance.

Even the leaders of major nations around the world are seeing the problems with “fast fashion” and the unnecessary waste caused by major industries, such as the fashion industry. In response to this significant issue facing the world today, the European Union is introducing legislation on recycling quotas. It is only a matter of time before textile recycling shifts from being optional to being mandatory.


Given that the textile industry is the second-largest polluting industry on the planet, major changes need to be made to reduce the accelerating degradation of the environment. There are a number of highly-toxic chemicals used within the industry that could be greatly reduced using textile recycling. Additionally, a significant amount of energy can be saved from producing massive quantities of textiles that are produced every year.


The average lifespan of clothing today is around three years. Around 85% of clothes will end up in landfills. The decomposition process may even take thousands of years for certain textiles, meaning they are essentially further polluting the planet far into the future. With such a tragically low amount of textile recycling currently occurring, something needs to change.


NIR Spectroscopy Is the Answer


There is a way to increase the amount of textile recycling that occurs, and it involves the use of NIR spectroscopy. The main issue with textile recycling has been the ability to easily sort textiles by their color and material.


Separating colors leads to a reduction in re-dying, or outright eliminating it. It also drastically reduces the number of toxic chemicals used. Finally, less energy is used throughout the process. Once colors and materials are separated into their respective categories, textiles are shredded and combined with other fibers, depending on what the end result is supposed to be. After going through a cleaning and spinning process, fibers become compressed so that they can be reused. There are more and more novel ways of reusing recycled textiles, which also has been leading to more innovative designs as well.


Textiles need to be sorted appropriately for them to be recycled efficiently and effectively. There are specific requirements that automated recycling systems abide by when it comes to purity, fiber types, colors, and categories. To efficiently sort everything, NIR spectroscopy can be used.


This highly-advanced method relies on measuring molecular absorptions in the near-infrared area of the spectrum. What happens is that infrared light becomes absorbed by the surface of the textile that is to be sorted and recycled. The reflected light ends up creating a characteristic spectrum of each fiber type, as well as the blend combination. Finally, the spectrum will be compared using a predefined database, making it easy to identify what kind of material is being sorted. No other system compares to the accuracy and efficiency of NIR spectroscopy.


This technology can be used to quickly and accurately identify whether an article of clothing is made out of any of the following:

  • Cotton
  • Polyester
  • Acrylic
  • Wool
  • Polyamide,
  • Silk
  • Viscose
  • Modal
  • Lyocell
  • Polycotton Blends


NIR spectroscopy is vastly superior to manual sorting and is undoubtedly the way of the future. Textile recycling has never been this easy, quick, and accurate. With the immense problems of pollution and waste the fashion industry is currently dealing with, NIR spectroscopy is a technology whose time has come.


NIR Spectroscopy Made Easy Using the NIRONE Scanner


It is now easier than ever to conduct NIR spectroscopy, thanks to the NIRONE Scanner. It is the world’s fastest, smartest, and easiest way to create your unique material sensing solution. You can watch this video to see the NIRONE Scanner in action.


At Spectral Engines, we strive to provide the best devices to help with sorting various textiles into partitioned groups, making material recycling seamless and simple. Contact us today to learn more about our effective solution to this massive problem facing the fashion industry, so you can be ahead of the trend toward textile recycling.