Enhancing textile recycling with removable logos

Bjørn Thorsen A/S, the mother company of DST, takes part in a new project aiming to develop solutions for easier replacement of transfer prints on clothing.

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Supported by the Environmental Technology Development and Demonstration Program (MUDP) of the Danish Environmental Ministry, the project “Reuse is Good Use” (in Danish: ”Genbrug er god brug”) is a collaboration between the Danish Technological Institute (project leader and knowledge partner), NS System A/S (transfer print supplier), Bjørn Thorsen A/S (raw material supplier), and Fabricaid ApS (advisor in the circular textile value chain). It aims to develop methods for removing existing transfer prints from certain types of textiles and create a new type of removable transfer print that is easier to replace in the future.

Understanding barriers to workwear recycling

Workwear and company attire constitute a whopping 12% of the total textile consumption in Denmark. Many employees in various companies wear shirts, T-shirts, lab coats, safety vests or high visibility vests with their own name and employer’s logo printed directly on the fabric. In situations when the person is no longer employed there or the company logo has changed, qualitative clothes are thrown away and end up being incinerated due to limitations of removing printed names and logos. According to data from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, in 2023, a staggering 89% of textiles collected from Danish businesses were incinerated.

But clothing has great recycling potential, especially textiles made of high-quality materials like workwear. If we could develop a solution to remove the logos, the fashion industry can achieve significant environmental gains by considering reuse and recycling before incineration. “A barrier to recycling is the widespread use of transfer printing, i.e. printed logos and names”, says project manager Jeppe Holmehave from the Danish Technological Institute.

Transforming workwear: Challenges and solutions for logo removal

The challenge, as seen by the Danish Technological Institute, is that transfer prints are designed for high durability and not with the intention that textiles should be reused later, potentially with a different name or logo. However, there is a growing demand for removable logos, driven in part by more responsible procurement policies, leasing models at Danish laundries, and the emergence of take-back schemes where customers can return used logo clothing to the supplier when it is no longer needed.

One of the partners in this project, NS System A/S, is a supplier of clothing with transfer prints. Their CEO Niels Rask sees significant business opportunities in developing solutions that promote increased reuse: “There is a great demand for solutions that move us away from the use-and-discard culture. We can certainly contribute to that in this partnership if we succeed in finding a solution where our transfer prints maintain high quality while in use and are easier to replace when the print is no longer relevant,” explains Niels Rask.

The role of raw materials: Bjørn Thorsen A/S and DST in action

Bjørn Thorsen A/S contributes to this project through their expertise on raw materials used in creating the transfer prints, as well as the highly knowledgeable and equipped R&D team of its affiliate DST – manufacturer of consumables for heat transfers used in textile decoration.

Quentin Le Piouff, the newly appointed Managing Director of DST says: “As a producer of consumables used to create heat transfer prints for workwear, we have the know-how on raw materials’ chemical and mechanical properties and the way the transfers interact with the textiles. We want to put our industry knowledge to good use and contribute to this project with a working solution for print removal, which will enable workwear reuse and recyclability in a systematic, large-scale industrial way”.

Lars Rønsholt, Managing Director in Bjørn Thorsen A/S and head of company’s Technology department adds: “Partnering with the right industry players is the key success factor of such a big scale project. Only through cooperation and knowledge sharing across the supply chain can we achieve the desired outcome.”

For more information, please contact Quentin Le Piouff (qlp@bjorn-thorsen.com).

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