Bildnachweis: Fotoschlick – stock.adobe.com.
The textile industry is a one-way street with a landfill at the end. In 2020, around 108.3 million tonnes of textile fibres were produced worldwide. Only 1% of this global material is recycled into new clothing, thereby closing the loop. The rest is incinerated or landfilled. The start-up EEDEN is daring to change the textile industry‘s rules of the road with a chemical upcycling process that turns old textiles back into a source material for new fibres. Now they need a seed (funding) to put an end to the one-way street. By Urs Moesenfechtel
EEDEN is a start-up that processes cotton waste textiles into a starting material for new, high-quality cellulose fibres (e.g. lyocell, viscose). They use a uniquely efficient chemical upcycling process to do so. “We are capable of recycling textiles without any loss of quality. Our cellulose fibres are of the same quality as cotton. They feel like cotton and even surpass it,” says Reiner Mantsch, co-founder of EEDEN. Right from the beginning, EEDEN developed a green chemistry process that they can quickly scale up. “We use a very efficient modular ‘out of the box‘ approach that allows us to respond flexibly to the different challenges in textile recycling,” he adds.
It’s a long way down the road
Founded in 2019, EEDEN originally emerged from a study project at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. To date, they have been financing themselves entirely through NRW scholarship support programmes as well as through Startup.Starterkit.MG. This twelve-month support package for start-ups is sponsored by the city of Mönchengladbach and was initiated by other sponsors there, such as nextMG e.V, a digitalisation and start-up association; WFMG, a business development company; and EWMG, a development company.
EEDEN could be in the right place at the right time
The market for apparel fibres is immense, and right now, things seem to be on the move. Fashion brands and consumers increasingly want to become more sustainable. At the same time, pressure is increasing at the political level as a result of ambitious targets (the Netherlands requires new textile products to have 30% recycled content by 2030) and possible EU regulations. Assuming a 30% recycled fibre content, the potential demand for upcycled cellulose fibre will be more than six million tonnes per year worldwide beginning in 2025. However, all textile recycling solutions combined will only be able to recycle about 200,000 tonnes of material at that time. For this reason, the textile industry itself is actively calling for more upcycling companies. “If all competitors were to build a 100,000 tonne per year fully-scaled recycling plant today, demand would not even begin to be saturated,” Steffen Gerlach, EEDEN’s other co-founder, comments on the market situation and the associated potential of his company.
Germany offers important location advantages
One of the biggest obstacles to global textile recycling is the lack of collection infrastructure. With its well-developed and reliable infrastructure for textile collection, Germany offers the company a unique location advantage, though old textiles suitable for upcycling are not sorted separately in the country. EEDEN also wants to solve this problem and is already working with interested players who can provide the appropriate sorting infrastructure, technology and expertise.
To be seeded, partners are needed
EEDEN is currently producing on a laboratory scale. In order to pursue their next development steps, they need to scale up their chemical processes so they can grow further. EEDEN now needs more partners who can provide textiles that contain cotton, or who can produce large quantities of cellulose fibres. Since this cannot be achieved with the company’s current infrastructure, further investors for the remaining capital requirements of seed financing are being sought. EEDEN is looking to raise a minimum of EUR 1 million so they can start the next scale-up by expanding the laboratory and the team in February 2022. Their next steps are to test their process on a larger scale and to patent the process. If they succeed, they would be in the right place at the right time, because the EU’s waste framework directive will come into force in 2025: this will result in the collection of around
5.5 million tonnes of used textiles which must be reused. In any case, EEDEN’s concept has already been reviewed and confirmed. The start-up is currently engaged in the due diligence process with High-Tech Gründerfonds.
Short profile of EEDEN
Number of employees: 5–7