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Circular solutions for textile value chains through innovative sorting, recycling, and design for recycling
Horizon Europe - Cluster 6 - Destination 3: Circular Economy and Bioeconomy Sectors
Estimated EU contribution per project
Link to the call
Link to the submission
The topic aims at improved management of the end-of-life phase of textile products. Proposals should address one or more of the following subjects and aim to combine them where relevant in a systemic way: facilitation of the disintegration of textile products through design, sorting, and recycling of textiles.
Textiles are the fourth highest-pressure category for the use of primary raw materials and water and fifth for GHG emissions and a major source of microplastic pollution in production and use phases. They are also a key material and product stream in the circular economy action plan. The purpose of this initiative is also to minimise the use of hazardous substances in processing and textile treatments. Proposals shall also demonstrate and deploy innovative solutions for increased quality, non-toxicity and durability of secondary textile materials and their processing and treatments.
Facilitation of the disintegration of textile products:
Beside the fibre composition affecting recyclability, textile products can also consist of various non-textile components or accessories, and can be coated, laminated or printed on. These hard parts, trims, coatings and laminated layers hamper recycling and are a major barrier for practically all textile fibre recycling technologies, especially chemical recycling technologies. The removal of these non-textile components requires disassembly prior to recycling, adding costs to the overall recycling process. Despite the various research projects on this topic, the implementation and uptake of these techniques is still far from reality. Proposals should address these challenges. New approaches should also be tested, involving technologies such as robotics and AI. Irrespective of the remaining technological and economical challenges, the implementation of disintegration techniques also requires a system, in which products that are fitted with any of these techniques are properly collected, recognised, and sent towards the right facility to apply the appropriate triggering mechanism.
Systemic solutions for sorting:
Over the coming years, the collected volumes of post-consumer textile waste are expected to increase by a further 65,000 to 90,000 tonnes per year due to the increased amounts of textiles placed on the market and the obligation to separately collect textile waste, which Member States have to put in place by 1 January 2025. This will further increase the need for advanced sorting for collecting organisations in order to create economic value out of this. At the moment, sorting is still mainly a manual process, having a significant contribution to the total process costs of recycled textile fibres. The cost of manual sorting is a major barrier to cost effective production of feedstock for textile fibre recycling. Automated sorting has the potential to deliver sufficient, well-defined and low-cost input to recycling processes, however, to date, this potential is not yet fulfilled. New technologies exist, but their limitations need to be addressed. Due to the limited penetration depth of NIR light, only the surface composition of textiles can be detected. RFID technology requires the textile products to carry an RFID tag and an entire system behind, adapted by all parts of the value chain. Therefore, proposals should develop systemic digital solutions that facilitate traceability and comprehensive exchange of information along the entire value chain, involving the use of technologies such as blockchain, AI and IoT. Proposals should build knowledge and competence regarding information system models, systems for data collection, provide an overview of existing standards and mapping of standardisation needs, include cost calculations and evaluation of Return On Investment (ROI), and consider implications of integrating digital information carriers in textile products.
Further development of textile recycling technologies:
In view of the huge amount of textile waste, which will have to be handled due to the soon mandatory separate collection, possible product requirements such as recycled content and the potential offered by different types of textile recycling, different ways of textile recycling remain relevant and will all be needed in the implementation of the textiles strategy. Mechanical recycling of textiles is an established technology in the market. However, the amount of spinnable fibre and the quality of the fibres should be improved. The integration of robotics, AI, or IoT components will play a role in the improvement of these processes. Thermo-mechanical recycling is a process that is still under development and further research is needed to improve the yield of recycled content and the use of chemicals to increase the quality of the polymer. Chemical and enzymatic recycling are novel technologies. Proposals should upscale polymer recycling of cotton via a pulping process and incorporate customer feedback for optimisation of the process and continuous delivery of suitable textile waste (in terms of purity and composition) as feedstock. Other options that can be explored are the recycling of polycotton blends and the monomer recycling of PET. The application of these technologies in research and innovation should also be extended to other types of fibres.
Clustering activities with projects under “HORIZON-CL6-2024-CIRCBIO-01-2: Circular solutions for textile value chains based on extended producer responsibility” should be envisaged. A lifecycle perspective using LCA and LCC should be used when validating the technical and economic feasibility of the developed, improved, demonstrated and up-scaled processes. Proposals should also address the issue of side streams such as wastewater and the treatment and reuse. Novel value chain-based solutions through industrial symbiosis should be encouraged. For comparability reasons, LCAs should use well-established methods and be based on PEF wherever feasible. Proposals should fully incorporate the Safe and Sustainable by Design (SSbD) approach. Particular attention should also be given to the implementation of traceability solutions, also with a view to recent policy developments, e.g. the digital product passport. The participation of SMEs and industry is encouraged.
A successful proposal will contribute to the following Destination impacts: i) enhance European industrial sustainability, competitiveness and resource independence, and ii) improve on consumer and citizen benefits.
Project results are expected to contribute to at least two of the following outcomes:
- Roll-out of systemic solutions for textile sorting, using innovative digital technologies (such as AI, robotics, IoT and blockchain);
- Roll-out of feasible solutions for facilitated disintegration to be incorporated in product design, as an enabler for recycling;
- Increased uptake of mechanical recycling solutions that deliver competitive, high-quality secondary materials;
- Roll-out of thermo-mechanical, chemical and other (e.g., enzymatic) recycling solutions that are sustainable from a zero-pollution, circular material and energy efficiency perspective.
Regions / countries for funding
Moldova (Moldova), Albania (Shqipëria), Armenia (Հայաստան), Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan), Belarus (Беларусь), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosna i Hercegovina / Босна и Херцеговина), Faeroes (Føroyar / Færøerne), Georgia (საქართველო), Island (Ísland), Israel (ישראל / إِسْرَائِيل), Kosovo (Kosova/Kosovë / Косово), Montenegro (Црна Гора), Morocco (المغرب), New Zealand (Aotearoa), North Macedonia (Северна Македонија), Norway (Norge), Serbia (Srbija/Сpбија), Tunisia (تونس /Tūnis), Türkiye, Ukraine (Україна), United Kingdom
Education and training institution, International organization, Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) / Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Other, Private institution, incl. private company (private for profit), Public Body (national, regional and local; incl. EGTCs), Research Institution incl. University, Small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
To be eligible for funding, applicants must be established in one of the following countries:
- the Member States of the European Union, including their outermost regions
- the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) linked to the Member States
- third countries associated to Horizon Europe - see list of particpating countries
Only legal entities forming a consortium are eligible to participate in actions provided that the consortium includes, as beneficiaries, three legal entities independent from each other and each established in a different country as follows:
- at least one independent legal entity established in a Member State; and
- at least two other independent legal entities, each established in different Member States or Associated Countries.
Any legal entity, regardless of its place of establishment, including legal entities from non-associated third countries or international organisations (including international European research organisations) is eligible to participate (whether it is eligible for funding or not), provided that the conditions laid down in the Horizon Europe Regulation have been met, along with any other conditions laid down in the specific call topic.
A ‘legal entity’ means any natural or legal person created and recognised as such under national law, EU law or international law, which has legal personality and which may, acting in its own name, exercise rights and be subject to obligations, or an entity without legal personality.
- Affiliated entities — Affiliated entities (i.e. entities with a legal or capital link to a beneficiary which participate in the action with similar rights and obligations to the beneficiaries, but which do not sign the grant agreement and therefore do not become beneficiaries themselves) are allowed, if they are eligible for participation and funding.
- Associated partners — Associated partners (i.e. entities which participate in the action without signing the grant agreement, and without the right to charge costs or claim contributions) are allowed, subject to any conditions regarding associated partners set out in the specific call conditions.
- Entities without legal personality — Entities which do not have legal personality under their national law may exceptionally participate, provided that their representatives have the capacity to undertake legal obligations on their behalf, and offer guarantees to protect the EU’s financial interests equivalent to those offered by legal persons.
- EU bodies — Legal entities created under EU law including decentralised agencies may be part of the consortium, unless provided for otherwise in their basic act.
- Joint Research Centre (‘JRC’)— Where provided for in the specific call conditions, applicants may include in their proposals the possible contribution of the JRC but the JRC will not participate in the preparation and submission of the proposal. Applicants will indicate the contribution that the JRC could bring to the project based on the scope of the topic text. After the evaluation process, the JRC and the consortium selected for funding may come to an agreement on the specific terms of the participation of the JRC. If an agreement is found, the JRC may accede to the grant agreement as beneficiary requesting zero funding or participate as an associated partner, and would accede to the consortium as a member.
- Associations and interest groupings — Entities composed of members (e.g. European research infrastructure consortia (ERICs)) may participate as ‘sole beneficiaries’ or ‘beneficiaries without legal personality’. However, if the action is in practice implemented by the individual members, those members should also participate (either as beneficiaries or as affiliated entities, otherwise their costs will NOT be eligible.
other eligibility criteria
Activities should reach TRL 5-6 by the end of the project.
Relevance for EU Macro-Region
EUSAIR - EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, EUSALP - EU Strategy for the Alpine Space, EUSBSR - EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, EUSDR - EU Strategy for the Danube Region
UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN-SDGs)
All proposals must be submitted electronically via the Funders & Tenders Portal electronic submission system (accessible via the topic page in the Search Funding & Tenders section). Paper submissions are NOT possible.
Proposals must be complete and contain all parts and mandatory annexes and supporting documents, e.g. plan for the exploitation and dissemination of the results including communication activities, etc.
The application form will have two parts:
- Part A (to be filled in directly online) contains administrative information about the applicant organisations (future coordinator and beneficiaries and affiliated entities), the summarised budget for the proposal and call-specific questions;
- Part B (to be downloaded from the Portal submission system, completed and then assembled and re-uploaded as a PDF in the system) contains the technical description of the project.
Annexes and supporting documents will be directly available in the submission system and must be uploaded as PDF files (or other formats allowed by the system).
This call follows a two-stage approach.
This topic is part of the blind evaluation pilot under which first stage proposals will be evaluated blindly. Applicants submitting a proposal under the blind evaluation pilot (see General Annex F) must not disclose their organisation names, acronyms, logos, nor names of personnel in Part B of their first stage application (see General Annex E).
The limit for a first-stage application is 10 pages. The limit for a full application (Part B) is 45 pages.