Emission reduction potential was calculated to Finland’s first end-of-life textile refinement plant

Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy (LSJH) (southwestern Finland waste management) is a company owned by 18 municipalities. It takes care of organizing the residents’ waste management and waste disposal on behalf of these municipalities. Approximately 440 000 inhabitants live in the company’s operating area. The biggest owners of LSJH are the city of Turku and the city of Salo.

We calculated the climate change impact and emission reduction potential of Lounais-Suomen Jätehuolto Oy’s post-consumer textile refinement plant to be built in Topinpuisto, Turku.  

Greenhouse gas emissions and the emission reduction potential were assessed via project scenario and baseline scenario

Emission reduction potential refers to climate benefit that can be achieved by recycling end-of-life textiles passing through the plant in comparison to the reference system where textiles are not separately collected and recycled. The plant will be the first full-scale plant mechanically recycling consumer textiles in Finland, and when the plant is completed, Finland will be the first country in the world where post-consumer textiles are obtained nationwide for reuse and recycling. The study is also the first of its kind, as similar life cycle assessment of post-consumer textile recycling has not been carried out before. 

The calculation was carried out following the life cycle assessment standards ISO 14044 and ISO 14040 as well as the Climate Fund’s guidelines for calculation of emission reduction potential. Only the climate change impact (also called global warming potential or carbon footprint) of textile recycling was studied, and no other environmental impacts or benefits. 

Greenhouse gas emissions and the emission reduction potential of the plant were assessed via two scenarios: the “project scenario” and the “baseline scenario”. In the project scenario the emissions were assessed in the situation where the project (end-of-life textile refinement plant) will be implemented, and the plant is in operation. In the baseline scenario the emissions were assessed in the situation where the plant is not implemented and the post-consumer end-of-life textiles end up in energy utilization together with mixed waste due to the lack of recycling routes, as in the current situation. 

Textile recycling can achieve significantly greater emission credits

Based on the results, recycling of post-consumer end-of-life textiles can have remarkable climate change benefits. The greenhouse gas emissions caused by the recycling of end-of-life textiles are slightly lower than the ones caused by combustion, but textile recycling can achieve significantly greater emission credits (i.e., avoided impacts).  

The most significant environmental benefits, in relation to one kilogram of textile, can be achieved by directing the reusable textile to reuse as such without mechanical or chemical processing. In this way, the entire manufacturing chain of new textiles from fibers to the finished products is avoided which is indicated in high emission credits, and at the same time the mechanical processing or combustion of end-of-life textiles is not required.  

From the perspective of recycled textile materials, especially the recycling of wool, was found to have a significant climate benefit compared to other fibers, since manufacturing of virgin wool has high carbon footprint. However, the amount of wool compared to other textile qualities is often relatively small. The recycling of synthetic fibers (e.g., polyester) based on fossil oil also brings significant climate benefits, because in addition to the production of virgin fibers, the release of fossil carbon during combustion is avoided. 

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Joni Kemppi

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