Cotton is one of our most loved textiles, but producing 1 kilo of cotton requires 10.000 litres of water. In recent years, the production of this material has decreased while the demand has risen. Some studies predict demand will exceed supply by 20 million tons annually by 2030.
The Finnish forest industry approached this gap as an opportunity. Since demand for paper has decreased, the industry started investigating new applications for wood pulp. A major research project was initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the Aalto University in Helsinki. The challenge was to develop a solvent that was free from toxic chemicals in order to dissolve the fragile cellulose without damaging it. The researchers discovered that there was no need to use wood pulp. Instead, they could use waste materials such as paper and cardboard and since cotton is 100% cellulose, why not recycle it?
Since receiving the award in 2016, the technology to recycle waste cotton and spin entirely new textile fibres has progressed faster than the team initially anticipated.