Austrian State Prize for Textile Recycling

Redaktion PSI Journal

Published on 29.10.2021

The national award gala held on 20 October 2021 was a grand success for the Austrian terry cloth specialists HERKA GmbH, which is one of the few weaving mills left in Europe. The company won the Austrian State Prize 2021 for environmental and energy technology in the category of closed loop economy & resource efficiency for its project ‘TEX2MAT – new processes for recycling textile waste consisting of multiple materials’. The Environmental Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler bestowed the award to company representatives at the event in Vienna. Every year around 10 million tons of textile waste end up in residual waste bins and are incinerated. For this reason, the main goal of the Austrian TEX2MAT project was to utilize old textiles consisting of multiple materials. To achieve this goal, a new KMU-compatible TEX2MAT process was developed by a consortium of companies in order to recycle polyester-cotton blended fabrics.

In this process, the cotton content is extracted using enzymes so that the intact polyester fibres are returned back into the production cycle and the resulting glucose can be turned into aids for creating textiles. This process guarantees that the high-grade and constant recycling quality is maintained. The main goal of producing new textiles products from old textiles containing multiple materials has been achieved. The cycle was able to be closed with the new TEX2MAT process.

The towels that are produced with recycled polyester by HERKA are similar to new products with respect to dyeing and washer tests. Thus, considerable amounts of resources and costs for disposal can be saved with the TEX2MAT process, which has a positive impact on the climate and environment. For this reason, the process is an excellent example of the closed loop economy and can be to transferred other materials (e.g. packaging). The project also shows that by cooperating with companies on a regional level, the entire process chain can be covered, added value can be achieved and the use of modern (bio-) technologies can contribute to increasing competitiveness.

An issue that is important to HERKA is making the same achievement for textiles consisting of 100% cotton. Valuable contacts could be made at the state award gala. Thomas Pfeiffer, Managing Director of the award-winning HERKA GmbH states, ‘The State Prize is an enormous incentive to continue pursuing our goal of closing the cycle for natural fibres, especially for the valuable raw material cotton. We are currently focused on finding cooperation partners’.

The HERKA GmbH’s project partners were: Ecoplus NÖ, TU Wien, BOKU Wien, Montanuni Leoben, Salesianer Miettex GmbH, Andritz AG, Starlinger & Co GmbH, Fildan GmbH, Thermoplastkreislauf GmbH, PlastiksEurope, and Multiplast GmbH. The state prizes are the highest honour given by the Republic of Austria. Being a recipient of an award can be considered the highest seal of quality that the Republic of Austria can give.

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Photo: Herka’s Managing Director Thomas Pfeiffer (middle) delighted to receive the State Prize from the Austrian Environmental Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler. On the right, the jury chairman of the FH Wiener Neustadt Gerald Götz.