A new green, Swedish industry is developing with the potential to give a greater and better supply of second hand clothes. Which means more people can use reusable clothes instead of buying new. If a mere five percent of the European textile consumption would be changed to second hand garnments, the green house gas emissions would decrease with the equivalent of 40 percent of the emissions from the whole of Sweden.

In a new tech project researchers, second hand actors, innovation partners and recycling companies is using artificial intelligens, machine learning and automation to develop the sorting and valuation of reusable clothes for the growing second hand market. 

The collecting and sorting of textiles in Europe are facing massive challenges. Today, between 50 and 75 percent of all collected textiles are reusable, but the handling is work intense and consists to a high degree of manual labor. Besides that, the sorting capacity today is about one fourth of all collected textiles. Already today the amount of textiles that end up in land fills are so great they can not be taken care of in a responsible manor. The lion part of the clothes end up in land fills or

is burned. The amount of clothes being collected is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.

– The time aspect is critical due to the new EU Waste Directive implemented in 2025. Which means all member states must have separate collection of textiles. This will dramatically increase the collected textiles and probably double the amount, says Susanne Eriksson, project leader at Wargön Innovation and project leader of the project AI for circular fashion.

In this new tech project AI for circular fashion new solutions using artificial intelligence is developed to enhance valuation and sorting of clothes.

Artificial intelligens is already used as technique for self driving cars, facial recognicion, e-commerce and in the fashion industry. Now steps are taken to test this on the growing market of second hand clothing. Among many other things, the project will look into the possibilites to use AI to identify the state of garnments and brands along with trends and demand on different markets. In combination with robots and automation the aim is to develop the second hand sorting to a large-scale and high-tech industry.

Initially a test pilot with a designed photo station is built at Wargön Innovation facility in Vänersborg municipality.

– We are planning to start the initial testing already this spring (2022) in our facility at Wargön Innovation, says Susanne Eriksson at Wargön Innovation.

About the project: 
The project is a collaboration between innovation centre Wargön Innovation, research institute RISE, Hack Your Closet (clothes subscription), Sharetex (textile recycling) and second hand parts Myrorna, Red Cross, Björkå Frihet and Texaid (Switzerland)
The project is financed by Vinnova and the project partners.
Budget: 7 million SEK
Project duration from Oktober 2021 to April 2024.

Robots can be machine learned via a large, open database to recognize garnments and their manufacturer. Also it holds the potential to assess damages, wear and tear and smells that affect the value of the garnment. Besides that, market data to assess demand and price trend is included to optimize prices.
A larger available supply of high quality second hand clothing can pave wave for more slow fashion. The development is enhanced by the upcoming EU Waste Framework Directive.

The directive means member states shall set up, by 1 January 2025, separate collection for textiles from households. Clothes, home and interior textiles, bags and textile accessories is included. The economical values of the second hand clothes market is expected to rise dramatically when the amount of clothes collected will increase. But, for the market to be able to grow in an economically sustainable way large-scale systems for collection, sorting, valuation collected Det innebär att alla EU:s medlemsstater måste ha system för separat insamling av textilier. Textila kläder, hem- och inredningstextil samt väskor och accessoarer av textil omfattas. De ekonomiska värdena av second handkläder väntas växa dramatiskt när insamlingsmängden ökar, men för att marknaden ska kunna växa krävs storskaliga system för insamling, sortering, värdering, logistik och försäljning.

Europeans consume 5,4 million tons of clothes and other textiles each year. 50-75 % of the volume (depending on where and how it is collected) is possible to reuse and sell second hand. The problem today in Europe is that the sorting capacity only amounts to 1,0-1,5 million tons per year.

Today 3,4 million tons is discarded, burned or turned into energy. The average life span of a garnment is two years and it is used on average 8 times.

Second hand garnments stands for 90 % of the textile value of all collected clothes in Europe. The rest of the garnments is low valued. Therefore it is of high interest to increase accuracy and speed in the valuation of clothes. With automatised AI valuation it will be possible to quickly determine the value of a garnment among a large amount of clothes. BOth speed and accuracy in automation has the potential to exceed the human capacity. The sorting price per garnment is also expected to decrease with automated valuation compared to manually handled.

Manual sorting of clothes is a physically and monotonous work with potential severe damages. This type of manual labor can be replaced to a certain degree by automated industrial production that demands high technical competence and be developed in Sweden.

Emission of greenhouse gases would decrease by up to 70 % if the expected life span of garnments would tripple, from todays 2 years to 6 years. This would have the largest positive environmental effects in countries outside the EU where most clothes, shoes and textiles are manufactured. These regions stands for 85 % of rawmaterials, 92 % of the water consumption, 93 % of land usage and 76 % of greenhouse gas emissions.

80 % of the greenhouse gas emissions from a garnment and 92 % of its toxicity are derived from the early stage of production. The textile industry emission stands for between 4 and 8 % of all greenhouse gas emissions today.

Curious about the project? In need of the solution or do you have questions? 
Please, contact us.
Project leader: Susanne Eriksson, Wargön Innovation
Media liaison:
Frida Jonson, PR & Communication, +46 (0)790-652 752