From clothing to raw material – K Group’s discarded workwear is given a new life as fibre

Discarded workwear is now recycled at K Group and converted into a new raw material for textiles. In a circular economy cooperation project with Touchpoint and Rester, discarded workwear will be recycled into fibre. Potential uses for the fibre are currently being sought in K Group’s own operations. In the future, an outfit worn by a salesperson at a K-store may end up as raw material for an interior decoration product or a new piece of clothing. The stores included in the cooperation have more than 20,000 employees, so a considerable amount of workwear is consumed.

Even the most durable workwear comes to the end of its useful life when it is worn out or damaged. Discarded workwear can now be reused under the cooperation model of K Group, Touchpoint and Rester. Discarded workwear from K-stores, Neste K service stations, the K-Rauta hardware stores in Finland and the Finnish Onninen Express stores for corporate customers is recycled into fibre at Rester’s textile recycling plant in Paimio.

The circular economy is a strategic choice for K Group and one of the cornerstones of its sustainability work. Under the new cooperation model, discarded textiles will be reused and will no longer be incinerated with mixed waste. The new Waste Act also calls for solutions for collecting and reusing discarded textiles.

“The transition to the circular economy requires more efficient material circulation and close cooperation between companies to create new solutions. We are delighted that we can make a real contribution to the Finnish circular economy through textile recycling. K-retailers have also wanted a centralised model for collecting textiles, so it’s great that we can make it possible through this cooperation. We are currently identifying potential further uses for the textile fibre in our own operations,” says Timo Jäske, Sustainability Director, Kesko’s grocery trade.

The collection of clothes is based on K Group’s return transport between stores and the central warehouse. Discarded and washed work jackets, shirts and trousers are loaded onto K Group’s normal return logistics. The textiles are delivered to the Paimio textile recycling plant, where they are processed into fibre. The first textile deliveries from the stores to the recycling plant will take place during October.


Recycled fibre has many uses

Rester’s textile recycling plant in Paimio is unique in Europe and offers the largest capacity in Northern Europe for recycling business textiles. The mechanical fibre opening at the plant is a method suitable not only for workwear but also for a variety of other materials and textiles.

“By 2030, the EU aims to ensure that all textile products sold on the EU internal market are durable, repairable and recyclable and made largely from recycled fibre. The closed circulation of textile fibre and the conversion of material streams into new workwear is a goal for us and the entire textile industry. Partnerships are important because no one can implement the circular economy alone,” says Anna-Kaisa Huttunen, Director of Partnerships at Rester.

Touchpoint and Rester are responsible for the statutory recycling of discarded textiles into a new raw material for industry. Recycled textile fibre has many potential applications.

“High-quality workwear materials can be converted into high-quality recycled fibre, which is suitable as a raw material for knitted fabric and new workwear fabric, for example. The cooperation with K Group has brought the recycling of discarded textiles closer to the closed cycle of the circular economy, and we are expecting good results,” says Joni Mäenpää, Sales Director at Touchpoint.

“In addition to fibre suitable for the textile industry, we are looking for other innovative solutions for various interior design and construction products,” Huttunen adds.


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