From producing materials in ways costly to the environment, to incinerating clothes when they are no longer used – the fashion- and textile industry is facing many challenges related to the area of sustainability. Luckily, these are challenges well-suited to be tackled by research facilities like MAX IV in Lund, where we meet researchers Selma Maric and Kim Nygård. Through investigations of new sustainable materials and new ways of recycling textiles, Maric and Nygård offer us a glimpse of what their research could mean for the future of fashion.
The MAX IV laboratory in Lund is a research facility where strong X-rays are used to provide information about different materials. The facility can be used by industry researchers and scholars all over the world to understand, explain, and improve our environment – both for studying and improving materials that are already in use, as well as for creating the right conditions for developing completely new materials and products. One of many industries that have shown interest in the research output of MAX IV is the textile industry, which could benefit hugely from advanced material research.
– The MAX IV laboratory in Lund is a national synchrotron lightning system. With the advanced techniques and instruments available at the laboratory, we can study different types of materials and processes with the highest possible resolution through time and space. This is an obvious asset for textile research – both for developing new, better, and more sustainable materials, but also for improving processes that are currently in use, says Selma Maric, Industrial Relations Officer at MAX IV.
Today, MAX IV is home to research projects within biology, physics, chemistry, environmental science, geology, technology, pharmacology, and culture. Technology that used to be exclusive to academia is now also available to industry, that through MAX IV may gain access to tools and research that would allow for research of industry materials and processes – as well as the development of new products.
− From our perspective at MAX IV, it would be interesting to see and understand what research challenges the textile industry is facing. Through this initial mapping, we can gain an understanding of how our lab can contribute to solving larger issues. For that to happen, we need to do further development on our instruments, to be able to tailor technology and analysis methods to the textile industry. We need to collaborate within the whole sector to do this. A collaborative forum where researchers, institutes, industry, and infrastructure can meet is a definite prerequisite for being able to even have a dialogue around the possibilities of how the advanced technology we have access to can be adapted to meet the challenges of the industry, says Selma Maric.
And it’s not only the research of new sustainable materials that would be interesting to research.
− Perhaps this is due to my background within the natural sciences, but I think the chemical recycling of textiles is very interesting. In Sweden alone, we throw away around 100 000 tonnes of textiles every year. It’d make a huge difference if we could recycle a big chunk of textile waste, preferably with the material value still intact. Fiber-to-fiber recycling has come a long way, but there are obviously still a lot of problems – like impurities, blended textile fibers, and so on – that could benefit from finding a solution. This is where I see that the MAX IV laboratory can come in helpful, says Kim Nygård, researcher at MAX IV.
During the Lundakarneval, fashion industry representatives were invited to a panel discussion in the locally broadcasted carneval radio. Why is it a good idea to highlight the textile- and fashion industry in the context of a carnival?
− The textile industry affects us all, but its important issues concerning sustainability often fall in the shadows of other news. It is good for these issues to be raised in alternative contexts, like the Lundakarneval, where we can also reach younger audiences, says Selma Maric.
− Textile research has the potential to have a great impact on society and it is always important to have a dialogue between different stakeholders to come up with new technology, research findings, and innovations together, says Kim Nygård.
“We must work across industry and knowledge boundaries”
The panel discussion during the carnival also included Lars Mattiasson from xPlot. Lars has worked with different parts of the textile industry for many years and welcomes collaboration across industry and knowledge boundaries. Since 2020, he has been working with the researchers at MAX IV to create a change towards increased sustainability in the textile industry.
– The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, with its goal of ensuring that textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable by 2030, is an important factor to take into consideration, as it will affect our ways and patterns of textile consumption in the future. The strategy considers the challenges along the whole of the textile value chain, while at the same time acknowledging the meaning and impact of the industry, says Lars Mattiasson, CEO at xPlot. The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles describes a new, but holistic, approach for tackling the issues the fashion industry is facing. It’s all about acknowledging issues that arise throughout the whole life cycle of different products. To succeed, we need to – as Selma and Kim mention – work across industry and knowledge boundaries.
In Lund, work has already been underway for a few years.
– Already in 2020, we took the first steps towards gathering industry and research around textile. Then the pandemic happened. As we’re slowly getting back to normal – and as the environmental impact of textiles continue to increase – I think it’s incredibly important that we now keep working on what we started almost two years ago, Lars Mattiasson concludes.
Translated by Anneli Xie
Main photo: MAX IV