Dutch design studio creates automotive textile from ‘unrecyclable’ clothing

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva


Several initiatives are already underway to solve the textile waste problem – from producing biodegradable clothing to circular fashion. But there’s still an obstacle: “unrecyclable” fabric that still ends up in landfills.

Dutch design studio Envisions, together with engineering company Imat-Uve has come up with a viable solution to this challenge and produced automotive textile from used clothing usually deemed unfit for recycling.

Their project, called Fibers Unsorted, is a technical fabric made from mixed-fibre clothing that would otherwise be considered waste. Instead, the fibres are processed into something durable enough to be used in the automotive industry, among others. 

“The challenge that Fibers Unsorted set was to develop a quality yarn out of the big waste streams of textile that are still today only down-cycled into a poor insulation material or get burned or end up in a landfill,” Envisions director Sanne Schuurman told Dezeen.

“We need to keep this resource as long as possible in its cycle and extend its lifetime to create valuable products out of it.”

According to the design studio, the difficulty in recycling textiles comes because of the many types of materials, fibres, colours, and quality levels mixed and “impossible to sort industrially”.

Dutch design studio creates automotive textile from 'unrecyclable' clothing
Automotive Textile / Dezeen

The project began development in 2013 when Imat-Uve started researching methods to deconstruct mixed textiles such as cotton, polyester, and elastin into usable fibres then set out to spin them into yarns. 

After working with several manufacturing partners and experts, the engineering company developed a method that protects the segregated fibre and keeps it as long as possible to produce a comparable fibre length to virgin materials such as cotton.

In this method, almost all garments can be recycled, with only 15 per cent of fibres filtered out because they are too short of making yarn. However, some fibres, such as carbon, are not suitable for recycling because they oxidise and cause problems in the machinery.

In addition, the technique requires no chemical process and is more sustainable than other similar initiatives. 

Dutch design studio creates automotive textile from 'unrecyclable' clothing
Dutch Design Week / Dezeen

The collaboration presented its work in an installation during Dutch Design Week this year, showing the finished product of Fiber Unsorted to hanging abstract objects that resemble a disassembled vehicle. 

“Although hinting at multiple applications and usages, the abstract installation leaves plenty of room for imagination and possible applications in industries beyond automotive,” said Envisions.

The design studio said it chose to focus on the automotive industry because its materials must meet the highest industry standards, but the automotive textile could also be applied in furniture design, upholstery and flooring.

Kaycee Enerva

Kaycee Enerva

A digital content manager based in the Philippines, Kaycee Enerva has written for multiple publications over several years. A graduate of Computer Science, she exchanged a career in IT to pursue her passion for writing. She's slowly practicing sustainability through period cups, and eating more plant-based food.


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