Blockchain technology to boost circular economy in the textile sector

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The Institute of Textile Research and Industrial Cooperation of Terrassa (INTEXTER) of theUPC works on the European project TRICK, which aims to facilitate the transition from the current business model to the circular economy in the European textile industry.

INTEXTER, the project's technology manager, is creating a technology-based platform blockchain that will directly affect the entire value chain of textile products.

Blockchain is a digital information encoding system created in 2008 with Bitcoin. This technology allows the transfer of digital data in a fully secure way and distributed in multiple independent nodes, because the data entered is recorded and with absolute reliability. In addition, the information entered can never be deleted and is only legitimized with the approval of all nodus. Another advantage of the blockchain is that any of the active nodes retain the information of the entire network in case the Internet falls.

This new technology is already being used in various sectors because it ensures the processes and reliability of information in the traceability of products and is already one of the fundamental pillars of the 4.0 industry and the Internet of Things.

It should be kept in mind that Europe loses EUR 400 billion every year in garments that have not been used and generates 92 million tonnes of waste in clothing that could still be used. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, 66% of users would pay more for clothing and products that are sustainable. By 2025, all EU states will have to place clothing containers in cities and it will be forbidden to sell clothing in Africa. According to the last report of the same foundation, in a new textile economy, clothing would be designed to last longer, more would be used and could be easily rented, reselled and recycled. This challenge, however, requires technological change in the textile industry.

Creating an industrial standard for textiles

Now, the UPC's INTEXTER is working to implement blockchain technology applied to the textile sector through the TRICK project, which is funded by the EU and involving 30 partners, most of which are Italian companies. The team led by José Antonio Tornero, Carla Fité and Maria Carmen Doménechis in charge of the technical supervision and administrative coordination of the project, which aims to create an industrial standard for the traceability of the blockchain-based textile value chain.

Companies in the sector need to transform their business model and their processes into the circular economy. Europe is committed to using block chain technology to transform the sector, as this ensures both storage, reliability, transparency and information security, building trust between companies.

Textile companies encounter the problem of how to certify process information to the entire value chain for their change of production and business paradigm. For this reason, the researchers at INTEXTER working on the TRICK project are developing a platform to directly influence the value chain called Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), or product environmental footprint, which consists of a system for calculating the life cycle of products sold within the EU, traceability and certifications of origin, antifalsifications and health protection.

The TRICK project is in the development phase and the first phase, led by the UPC, has already been launched, which has consisted of specifying the requirements for use cases, i.e. defining the framework which lays the foundations for the development of the TRICK platform. The corresponding work on obtaining the results has been supported by an investigation into the current situation, existing solutions and the needs of EU textile and food industry users to move towards a circular economy.

The UPC's INTEXTER is the technological manager of the TRICK project, funded with EUR 8 million by the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme, and 30 European partners are part of it.

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