From old sheet to trendy dress: Frankenhuis gives textiles a second life

Frankenhuis was known for collecting rags back in the days in Haaksbergen. Today, the company from Almelo has long since outgrown that status. Frankenhuis has become an innovative organisation where used textiles are given a second life.

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Managing director Tich Vanduren proudly shows off a blouse in one of Frankenhuis’ consulting rooms. The garment looks beautiful, and the material has a pleasant feel. There’s also a trendy dress on a hanger. Both garments were made in Sweden and look brand new but are made from used cotton. The primary raw material comes from Frankenhuis. “We set up a line that collects cotton from the market”, explains Vanduren. “We work together with many laundromats. Their end-of-life textiles come to us. Think of old sheets or T-shirts. We clean the cotton and make sure all the buttons and zips are taken out. We succeeded in turning that cotton into a very fine pure powder. We process that into briquettes that go to Sweden.”

Frankenhuis exports one to two thousand tonnes of these briquettes to the Scandinavian country. “It’s no longer a pilot; we are going at it full blast”, says Vanduren enthusiastically. “A company called Sodrä turns it into new raw material, and Lenzing turns it into yarn. Lindex, among others, sells the clothes made from this yarn in their webshop.”

Taking flight

The way Frankenhuis recycles cotton is perhaps representative of how Frankenhuis has taken flight in recent years. Until 2017, the company mainly processed old jeans and knitted clothes for the non-woven industry. These clothes were turned into thick felts through mechanical recycling. These felts were then used to produce car hat boards or as insulation material in washing machines or other white goods.


But since its acquisition by Boer Groep in 2018 and its participation in the Circular Textiles Twente regional deal, Frankenhuis has taken a different road. They are increasingly profiling themselves as a partner for all textile recycling. “Boer Groep wants to get rid of every incineration step”, explains Vanduren. “Our goal is to be able to recycle all textiles that do not go to the second-hand market.”


Frankenhuis and its partners in the regional deal TexPlus, SaXcell, Enschede Textielstad Innovation, Regionaal Textielsorteercentrum Twente and Saxion are looking for new technologies to process waste textiles. “The search paid off”, says Vanduren. “What we have set up cannot be found anywhere else. Twente is repositioning itself as a textile region.”


Frankenhuis was able to set up the cotton cleaning line partly thanks to investments and research from the regional deal. But Frankenhuis also set up a branch for confidential recycling, in which security or police uniforms are destroyed and reduced to a new raw material. Other companies also contact Frankenhuis to give their old textiles a second life. “Textile recycling is on the rise”, says Vanduren. “The more the market moves forward, the more we are asked if we can do something with redundant textiles.”


It caused the company to grow considerably. So much so that Frankenhuis bid farewell to Haaksbergen after almost 150 years. Their new premises are located in Almelo, at the XL Businesspark. Vanduren: "We outgrew Haaksbergen. We process between eight and nine thousand tonnes of textiles in our new premises and hope to be at fifteen thousand next year. Eventually, we can grow to twenty thousand tonnes.


This opportunity for growth was desperately needed, as Vanduren has many plans. They are already developing the next innovation: a line that can turn polyester into a raw material for new polyester, thus recycling it. “Depolymerising polyester is not very difficult. The technology already allows turning a garment into a water bottle. We are working with several parties to investigate how to turn used polyester textiles into new clothes. We are in the final phase of that process. Next year, we will have finished products made from a chemically renewable polyester.”


Frankenhuis’ ultimate goal is to contribute to a circular textile chain. It does so by recycling textiles, but Vanduren also wants to create more awareness in the chain. “Not all clothing can be recycled. We can’t do anything with a cotton shirt with a PVC print. Pieces of plastic in the collar of a blouse also make it difficult for us to recycle. That’s why we talk to designers a lot. We tell them which materials they should use to create a recyclable shirt. They do a lot with their advice; we regularly hear that they would’ve taken things into account sooner if only they’d known about them. People in the chain sometimes blame us for not working together, but we do. We are trying to close the chain and make it circular by working together.”


Frankenhuis has the techniques to give textiles a second life. They are increasingly used, but the textile waste mountain is still enormous. “It is now the government’s turn”, says Vanduren. “They are leading. There is no excuse not to make creating new garments out of at least 20 per cent recycled material obligatory, without losing quality. We have mountains of textiles, thus the raw materials to realise this. Twenty per cent should be possible, but the government has to give that push.”

Date: 13 July 2023 |

Source of tekst: Frankenhuis |

Author: Willem Korenromp

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