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December 6, 2021

Nike receives funding for apparel recycling project

US sportwear brand and retailer Nike is being awarded US$0.5m worth of funding for an apparel recycling project as part of the REMADE Institute and US Department of Energy's investment in new technology research.

By Laura Husband

Nike is receiving the $504,143 funding for its apparel recycling project called the ‘Development of an Automated Method for Disassembly and Separation of Apparel for Recycling’ which is taking place at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US.

Nike is one of 23 technology research projects to receive funding from The Remade Institute, which is a 132-member public-private partnership established by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

The Remade Institute started with an initial investment of $140m and last week it announced the latest round of funding would be $33.2m for new technology research.

This latest round of investment is cost-shared between DOE’s investment in the Remade Institute and the funding recipients. The 23 research and development (R&D) projects, including the Nike recycling apparel project, are expected to lead to technologies capable of:

  • Increasing recycled, or secondary, materials by as much as 8.9 million metrics tons per year
  • Saving up to 407 petajoules (PJ) of embodied energy per year — the equivalent of conserving 66.5 million barrels of oil per year
  • Decrease greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 24.1 million metric tons per year — eliminating the annual emissions of more than 5.2 million cars

The other project partners include: Volvo, BorgWarner, BigBattery, Pratt & Whitney, Mercury MarineAlfred UniversityAuburn University, Lehigh University, Ford Motor Co., Caterpillar, John Deere, Michelin, Nike, MIT, RIT, Unilever and Yale University.

Principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the US DOE, Kelly Speakes-Backman explained: “The transition to a net-zero greenhouse gas economy will require an unprecedented reduction in the embodied energy and carbon emissions associated with foundational industrial materials in every critical sector —from healthcare and agriculture to transportation.”

She added: “By investing in technologies that improve our ability to re-use, recycle and remanufacture these materials, DOE is moving the US toward a circular economy and reducing carbon emissions across the manufacturing sector.”

Remade CEO Nabil Nasr explained the connection between industrial development and climate change is significant, as highlighted at the recent UN climate conference, COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland.

He explained that according to the US Department of Energy, manufacturing accounts for 25% of US energy consumption at a cost of approximately $150bn. While, US Environmental Protection Agency data shows industry is the third-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the nation, after transportation and electricity at 23%.

The electricity consumed by the industrial sector, however is 30%, making industry the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

He pointed out this is why a circular approach to manufacturing – “make-use-reuse-remanufacture-recycle” – is so important, and why Remade is dedicated to the adoption of a circular economy.

Nasr said: “If we don’t reduce industrial energy consumption and industrial emissions, research shows we will only get a little more than halfway to net-zero by 2050, about 55% of the way. A circular economy approach to how we manufacture and use everyday products is needed to get us all the way to net-zero.”

Remade chief technology officer Magdi Azer said the Institute’s research seeks to increase circularity for four energy-intensive material classes: metals, plastics/polymers, fibres, and electronic waste.

Azer added: “Remade’s projects address multiple aspects of the Circular Economy, including reuse, remanufacturing, recovery and recycling. These latest R&D projects will, for example, explore better ways to repair aerospace components, develop an automated disassembly process for electric vehicle batteries, and provide quick and accurate estimates of the state-of-charge and state-of-health for lithium-ion batteries.”

In 2021, the Remade Institute funded or selected 45 projects for negotiation, representing $65.8m in investment. Since the Institute’s founding in 2017, it has launched 84 projects, representing a total combined value of $85.6m and a sixth round of funding is expected to be announced next year.



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