GOING ECO, GOING DUTCH
A local and closed loop textile production system
Keywords: Closed loop, Sustainability, Local production, Design4Recycling, Hemp,
Recycled post-consumer cotton
Saxion University of Applied Sciences, Enschede, The Netherlands
Consumers, producers and designers are increasingly demanding transparency throughout the
fashion and textile supply chain to realize the required reduction of the environmental impact
of textiles. Communication between these stakeholders is mandatory in order to accomplish
this, but is difficult because of the complexity of the international supply chain. Designing and
producing garments is still done in the classic top down approach; innovation in the textile and
clothing production chain is necessary to realize the required improvement and make the textile
industry sustainable. Innovative designers as well as established companies are looking for
sustainable alternatives for conventional raw materials, new production methods and recycling
options throughout the whole chain. Collaboration between all stakeholders and workers in the
textile production chain is required and despite this understanding, transparent and long-lasting
collaboration is not yet common practice. The Dutch textile industry has the knowhow and
resources to set up a local and closed loop sustainable textile production system by
collaboration with all stakeholders involved.
Textiles fibres can be classified into a number of categories. Widely used is the division
between natural fibres and synthetic fibres. The natural fibres can be of vegetable origin, such
as cotton and hemp, or of animal origin such as wool and silk. The synthetic fibres can be based
on natural raw materials, such as viscose and PLA, or are based on petroleum derivatives.
A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep
products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.
Figure 1 shows the closed loop from waste to product.
Figure 1. closed loop from waste to product
In the project Going Eco, Going Dutch the focus is on the circular use of natural fibres. It is
intended to use a combination of locally grown hemp and recycled postconsumer cotton. The
mechanical recycling is using discarded garments, which are collected and sorted in The
The fibers will be locally processed into yarns and be used to produce woven and knitted fabrics
by researchers and textile companies within the project Going Eco Going Dutch. It is a two-
year project in which the educational institutions ArtEZ University of the Arts and Saxion
University of applied sciences are in the lead. In the project consortium different stakeholders
from the Dutch textile and fashion industry are working together the realize the circular supply
chain. The project has just reached its midterm. In this paper the interim results are presented
and an outlook on the expected results at the end of the project is given.
For an overview of the environmental impact of various textile materials see Table 1.
It shows the environmental impact of a number of widely used textile raw materials,
expressed in the energy it requires to produce a kilogram fibres, the influence on global
warming (expressed in kg CO2 equivalents) and the amount of water it takes to produce a kg
fibre. (http://www.ecocostsvalue.com/EVR/img/Eco- costs2012_V2_LCA_data_on_products_and_
services_EI_V3_Idemat2014.xlsx ). , n.d.)
Table 1.Environmental impact textile fibres
Water use l/kg
Life Cycle Assessment
The Life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a standard tool used to investigate the environmental
impacts of all stages of a product’s life.
Within the project Going Eco, Going Dutch, the environmental benefits of using recycled
textile materials are calculated with the Modint Ecotool
(http://avnir.org/documentation/book/LCAconf_bijleveld1_2012_en.pdf ). This versatile tool
can be used to calculated the impact of the whole product life cycle and parts of it. The main
output parameters of the impact calculations are kg CO2 / kg textile, energy use/kg textile and
water use/kg textile. The data used by the Modint Ecotool are mainly based on the Eco-invent
database, which is widely used in LCA calculations, and specific data from literature.
The Modint Ecotool was used to calculate the impact for a number of cellulose-based fabrics.
In the calculations the processes were standardized as much as possible, in order to be able to
compare the results. Assumptions were made with respect to recycled materials in the
pretreatment (no scouring and bleaching of the recycled content) and coloring (no dying or
printing of the fabrics containing recycled content, as the recycled materials can be sorted
based on their color).
It is clear to see that the blend 50%recycled cotton and 50% hemp is by far the most
sustainable, see Table 2.
Table 2. Overview impact LCA
Mechanically recycled textile fibers have a low environmental impact. This was also proven
by a study commissioned by Made-By which resulted in the Environmental Benchmark for
Fibers”. See Figure 2
Figure 2. Made-By Environmental Benchmark for fibres
But this does not cover the full range of a brand’s sustainability activities or all the impacts
associated with garment production.
Made-By also developed ‘MODE Tracker’ this is much more holistic in scope, covering all
the key issues for the fashion industry. It offers brands and retailers the ability to
communicate across up to eight cube topic areas from People and Product through to
Manufacturing, Own Operations, Use and Durability, Packaging and Transport, Product
Waste and Transparency. By providing companies with a vehicle for communicating across
the full range of impacts, it supports greater transparency within the sector.
Textile recycling can be divided into mechanical recycling and chemical recycling. Not all
methods are suitable for all fibers. In the Going Eco, Going Dutch- project the focus is on the
mechanical recycling. In a mechanical recycling process, the textile waste is cut in bits and
pieces and further shredded into loose fibers. The mechanical recycling is hindered by non-
textile parts in the garments like buttons, zippers and labels. Designers could think of a way
to leave them out of the garments (Design for Recycling) to create a fully recyclable
collection. Metal zippers and buttons can cause damages on the carding machines in the pre-
spinning process. Nowadays, these non-textile parts have to be removed manually before
shredding as not all these parts can be removed during the shredding process.
In general, with textile-recycling landfill or incineration of the textile waste is prevented. The
landfill of textile waste has a negative environmental impact, while burning has a small positive
effect because a small amount of energy can be recovered. The impact of landfill and
incineration of textile waste can be calculated using the Modint Ecotool and differs per type of
fiber. Also the textile recycling process has an environmental impact. At mechanical recycling
is 2-4 MJ energy used per kg of textiles, but this is low compared with the energy that the
textile production costs. (Luiken, 2015)
The use phase has a severe influence on the end product. The more the garment has been
washed, tumble dried, the more worn out the fibers will be. This makes recycling more
Design4recycling, recycling in design
Designers are looking into the ‘design for recycling’ and ‘recycling in design’ principles to
develop new garments. The focus in this project lies on locally produced hemp fibers and
mainly recycled post-consumer cotton fibers. The fast fashion industry creates a lot of textile
waste that ends up on landfills where it pollutes the environment. This project examines the
potential of textile waste as a valuable renewable source.
Sustainable fashion today should consider three key areas: society (which should focus on
social equity), the environment (which should focus on ecological stability) and the economy
(which focus on economic viability). The challenges for designers is to manage these three
facets responsibly and embrace a holistic approach to sustainability. (Gwilt, 2014)
Sustainability is not only to optimize the sustainable cultivation and the processing of the
fibres, but also the way to design plays an important role in the whole process. To make the
design process more transparent you have to go deeper into the design for recycling and
recycling in design principles. Where design for recycling looks at the thought to design in a
way that the produced products can be put in the chain after use. Recycling in design makes
maximum use of recycled materials, with the limitations of the used material as a design
feature. Ideas and decisions made by designers throughout the development of a collection can
have a big impact on its durability.
The greatest opportunity to reduce environmental and social impacts occurs through the
decisions the designer makes during product conceptualization and the design process.
Designers, producers and retailers have choices make before developing sustainable garments
in different topics and possibilities. How to minimize waste? Pre- and postconsumer. Being
as efficient as possible. Clothing can be designed in a way that they are multi-functional,
garments that are made to last more than one season. Designers can make a selection of
appropriate materials such as organic and recycled fibres and fabrics that utilize fewer
chemicals from raw materials phase to apparel production before designing. There should
also be a selection of appropriate materials that can be recycled/up-cycled or re-purposed and
avoid the use of blends that cannot be separated, so the use of materials that are produced
with closed-loop systems. The content of most garments are made of blend materials, due to
the fact that this is pricewise a cheaper option. In order to optimize the mechanical recycle
process, it is an option to design with mono materials. Because blends often contain
cellulosic and synthetic fibers and oftentimes, fibers, dyes and finishes of post-consumer
waste remains unknown. There is no way to identify the fiber content in garments, therefore,
sorting these into mono materials is currently impossible.
Another different approach to improve the recyclability is to make the disassembly of the
garment into single components, e.g. by using innovative techniques such as a
microwaveable yarn; a short bust of microwave energy is applied to a seam, it breaks at
multiple points, allowing the disassembly with an application of minimal force. The thread’s
tensile strength is rapidly reduced by more than 80% through thermal decomposition, while
the fabric remains undamaged. (Blackburn, 2015)
To reduce waste before cutting, the patterns must lay in such an efficient way that there is a
minimum of fabric loss, in this way pattern drafting increases efficiency and results in cost
savings. (Kozlowski, Bardecki, & Searcy, 2012)
Sources such as the Nike “making app’ can be useful during the choice of materials.
MAKING is a tool to inspire designers and creators to make better choices in the materials
they use. We know that every decision a designer makes in the product creation process has
an impact on the environment. But given the range of options that exist, making informed
choices can be a challenge. Powered by the Nike Materials Sustainability Index, MAKING
provides the information to enable users to make real-time, predictive decisions.
Furthermore, GOTS certified fabrics can be used. The Global Organic Textile Standard is the
worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and
social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain. These
fabrics fulfill certain requirements, such as ethical and chemical ones and are official
sustainable. (www.global-standard.org, n.d.)
Materials and methods, development of the yarns
The quality and properties of the end-product, in this case a yarn, are mostly determined by the
quality and properties of the fibers used. Therefore, it is important to start this research with
determining the quality of the selected fibers, which are recycled cotton fibers and local hemp
fibers. The quality is determined subjectively and by hand. In the industry the mechanical
properties of fibers can be determined with an HVI system (Uster, 2016). This was not available
during this research, because the system is mostly used in the industry were large numbers of
fibers need to be tested. The most important fiber properties which affect the quality of the
yarn are the Micronaire (fineness), strength and length (Klein, The Rieter manual of spinning,
Volume 1 Technology of short staple spinning, 2014). Upland Strict Low Middling (41) was
set as a benchmark for the quality of the fibers. This cotton-quality can be seen as the standard
in the industry. Table 4 gives an overview of the fibers used for the development of yarns.
Recycled cotton fibers are derived from recycled post-consumer jeans. This raw material exists
of yarn-ends, short fibers, dust and pollution from metal parts, labels and textile pieces. The
length of the fibers is approximately 3-5 mm. The yarn-ends give some length to the raw
material but this is not significant for the spinning process, because the longer yarn-ends affect
the spinning stability and the look of the yarn. The yarn-ends will be opened a little during the
spinning process, resulting in a higher content of longer fibers. Approximately the length of
the fibers will be between 5-10 mm. Recycled fibers can best be processed in a blend with
longer cellulosic fibers. At the time of this research these fibers were not available, so polyester
fibers were used temporary.
Local hemp fibers
Hemp fibers are cultivated in the Netherlands and opened and softened (cottonized) for further
processing with the so called steam explosion technology. This is a technological alternative
for conventional processing with enzymes and dew retting. As there was an insufficient amount
of local hemp fibers available for the spinning experiments, an amount of hemp of Chinese
origin was used as well (also as a benchmark for the local produced hemp). Local hemp fibers
show a great variation in length from 5-160 mm. The raw material is not completely opened.
Conventional (Chinese) hemp fibers have a length of 40 mm and are well opened, soft and
bleached. These fibers are comparable to the Upland Cotton Strict Low Middling (41) quality.
Local hemp fibers are being blend with polyester for more length and with recycled cotton in
order to reach a more sustainable end-product.
Table 4. Overview of fibers used for the development of yarns.
Fiber length: 3-5 mm
Fiber length: 5-160
Fiber length: 40 mm
Fiber length: 45 mm
Fiber properties are affected by the temperature and air humidity. It influences the strength and
elongation of the yarn. For this reason production and quality testing needs to be done under
constant environmental conditions (Furter, 2009). According to ISO 139 (NEN, 2005) the
perfect temperature is 20°C (±2) with an air humidity of 65% (±4). Depending on the raw
material it takes 24-48 hours before the raw material is acclimatized. The spinning mill and the
laboratory used in this research do not possess the right equipment to meet these climatic
conditions, which can affect the results of the measurements.
Before spinning, the fibers are prepared through blending, opening and cleaning. The spinning
preparation took place on a picker. In the industry the process of blending, opening and
cleaning takes place in a so called Blow room. The quality of the fibers can be decreased up to
50% during the spinning preparation depending on the raw material (Klein, The Rieter Manual
of Spinning, 2014).
Different blends with recycled cotton, local hemp, conventional hemp and polyester were
selected for experiments. Conventional hemp fibers were replaced by local hemp fibers. Table
5 gives an overview of the different blends.
The right amount of fibers was measured before they were led over the picker. The picker exists
of rollers with coarse teeth. This causes the fibers to open and blend properly. It also eliminates
some dust and impurities from the raw material. First the raw materials were processed on the
picker separately in order to open the fibers properly. Afterwards the raw materials were
blended on the picker together in order to create a homogeneous fiber blend suitable for
carding. The better the fibers are blended, opened and cleaned during this preparation process,
the better the quality of the card sliver and thus the quality of the yarn.
Table 5. Overview of different blends.
Carding is the process of separating and parallelizing individual fibers and combining them
into a web. Most cards have the possibility to turn the web directly into a card sliver which is
suitable for an open-end rotor spinning machine.
For this research an experimental card was used. This made it difficult to control the process
of feeding the fibers into the card and producing an equal web which provides an equal sliver.
The web is formed on a large roller with small teeth. In order to produce a card sliver the web
needs to come off of the roller and led between two small rollers that press the fibers together
and stretches them. From the experiments was learned that the hemp fibers and the recycled
cotton fibers are too short to come off of the roller which made it impossible to produce a card
sliver. Longer and clean fibers could solve this problem. For that reason polyester fibers, and
in the future cellulosic fibers, will be added to the blends.
Ring spinning is still seen as the standard in the industry, but open-end rotor spinning offers a
lot of benefits. The production rate is higher, because spinning and winding of the yarn on a
cone are combined in one machine. Also the process step of making a roving is eliminated.
open-end rotor spinning is mostly suitable for the processing of cotton fibers, but also for
polyester/cotton blends, viscose, acryl blends and recycled cotton fibers. Fibers with a length
of 10mm to 60mm can be processed on an Open-end rotor spinning machine (Ernst, 2014, p.
For this research spinning experiments were executed on an open-end rotor spinning machine.
The input is a card sliver which is separated into individual fibers when entering the spinning
box. These fibers are twisted and spun into a yarn through centrifugal force. The twist is one
of the most important parameters, because it determines the strength, look and feel of the yarn.
The spinning process is influenced by many parameters which need to be adjusted according
to the raw material and the desired properties of the yarn. For this research the aim is to produce
a yarn which can be processed on current knitting and weaving machines in the industry.
The quality of a yarn is determined by evenness, hairiness, thick and thin places, strength,
elongation and yarn count. In this research the focus is on strength and yarn count. The yarn
count is given in Nm (metrical number). This indicates how many km fit into 1 kg of yarn. The
strength is tested on a Tenso Lab 5000 according to the following standard: NEN-EN-ISO 2062
- Textiles — Yarns from packages — Determination of single-end breaking force and
elongation at break using constant rate of extension (CRE) tester (NEN, 2009). The strength of
a yarn is given in cN/tex. This number indicates how much force (cN) is needed to break a yarn
of a given yarn count (tex = grams of yarn per km). In consideration with the project partners
the minimal yarn count and minimal strength were determined. These numbers are based on
experiences of knitting and weaving experts. The minimal values are shown in table 6 Although
the elongation also tells something about the quality of the yarn, no minimal value was set for
Table 6. Minimal values set to determine the quality of the yarn.
Improving the quality of the yarn can be done with after treatments. The yarns produced during
the experiments were waxed before they were wind up on a cone. The purpose of waxing is to
reduce the friction between yarns and between yarns and machine parts which can cause yarn
breakage during further processing like knitting. The wax can be washed off after processing.
Double twisting (twinning) can be done after spinning. Two yarns are combined in one new
yarn by adding a twist. This results in a thicker and stronger yarn. Double twisted yarns were
nog available yet for this research.
The carding experiments resulted in two card slivers suitable for experiments on the open-end
rotor spinning machine:
- a blend of 33% recycled cotton/33% conventional hemp/33% polyester
- a blend of 33% recycled cotton/33% local hemp/33% polyester
These card slivers were used for spinning experiments in order to find out if the desired quality
could be produced.
Before all spinning experiments the twist, draft, yarn count and sliver count were determined.
Based on these numbers the machine settings were set. The first spinning experiment was done
with the 33% recycled cotton/33% conventional hemp/33% polyester blend. The card sliver
was irregular which caused problems with the spinning stability (yarn breakage during
spinning). This resulted in an irregular yarn with a very low strength. Table 7 shows the results
of the first spinning experiment. Although no minimal value was set for the elongation, this
number was added to the results in order to complete the information on which the conclusions
Table 7. Results of spinning experiment 1.
33% recycled cotton/33% conventional hemp/33% polyester
The second experiment was done with the 33% recycled cotton/33% local hemp/33% polyester
blend. The card sliver is more regular compared to the first experiment which resulted in a
better spinning stability and a more regular yarn. But overall the sliver was still quiet irregular
and yarn breakage appeared during spinning. This was also caused by the coarse hemp fibers
which are difficult to process on the open-end rotor spinning machine. Table 8 shows the results
of the second spinning experiment.
Table 8. Results of spinning experiment 2.
33% recycled cotton/33% local hemp/33% polyester
In order to deal with the poor spinning stability, the experiment with the 33% recycled
cotton/33% local hemp/33% polyester blend was repeated, but with a lower draft. This resulted
into a thicker yarn and an improvement of the spinning stability, because there are more fibers
in the diameter of the yarn. The coarse hemp fibers seem to stick inside of the rotor (this is
where the individual fibers are twisted into a yarn) and spin around the yarn (yarn bindings).
This causes thick and irregular places which are more visible in this thicker yarn. Overall this
experiment led to a stronger yarn compared to the previous one. Table 9 shows the results of
the third spinning experiment.
Table 9. Results of spinning experiment 3.
33% recycled cotton/33% local hemp/33% polyester
Because the project Going Eco, Going Dutch is still an ongoing project there are new
developments concerning the yarns. At this point a new yarn is spun with the content of 28%
recycled jeans, 28% hemp and 44% viscose, the yarns have yet to be tested.
The production process from fiber to yarn was being examined for blends of recycled cotton
and local hemp. The aim was to produce different yarns which are suitable for further
processing on conventional knitting and weaving machines.
The most important fiber qualities are Micronaire (fineness), strength and length. These fiber
properties and the spinning preparation have a great influence on the quality of the yarn. The
best sliver is maintained after the fibers are properly opened and blended on a picker. The fiber
preparation takes place in an experimental environment. Therefore, it was difficult to control
the process and produce an evenly and reproducible sliver. This directly influenced the
spinning stability and the yarn quality.
Three yarns with different compositions and yarn counts were produced on an open-end rotor
spinning machine. The quality of the yarns was determined by strength and yarn count. The
first yarn was a blend of recycled cotton, conventional (Chinese) hemp and polyester which
had the right yarn count, but only had a strength of 3,3 cN/tex. The second yarn with recycled
cotton, local hemp and polyester showed better results with a strength of 7,0 cN/tex, but still
was not strong enough. The third yarn had the same composition as the second, but was spun
with a lower draft. The effect was a thicker and stronger yarn, 9,2 cN/tex. Still the three yarns
do not yet suit the minimal requirements.
Textile waste needed for sustainable yarn development is widely available. However, the fibers
of the recycled content are short and the local hemp fibers used in this project are at this time
still too short and there is limited availability. When developing a quality yarn, a blend of
different kind of fibres is needed. The produced yarns are irregular: designers could use this
aspect as an advantage and unique selling point instead of a disadvantage. Overall local hemp
is difficult to spin, the fibres are too hard and woody.
Different fabrics are produced with a quality sufficient for non-demanding fashion
applications. There is no additional dyeing needed. See Figure 3
Figure 3. produced products
The role of designers is very important in the sustainable fashion industry. Design for recycling
and the recycling in design principles are demonstrated in different kind of garments, the
outcomes of the LCA are very favourable and underpins by the environmental footprint.
Further development of the quality of the raw materials is necessary. As said before, the quality
of the fibers determines the quality of the end-product. Suppliers of local hemp fibers and
recycled cotton fibers need to optimize their materials to reach a quality which is comparable
to standard fibers. Furthermore, the optimal blend of the fibers needs to be found. This requires
new experiments for spinning preparation and spinning.
Design for recycling and the recycling in design principles must be further developed and
designers must be aware of the necessity of it. In the future it is important to implement these
results for a more sustainable textile industry.
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