Netam- a company that is a part of the textile industry in the Republic of North Macedonia for over two decades, made a unique fusion of two industries that the skills4future platform focuses on- textile and construction. Their innovative technology solves the textile waste issue, which is around 15% of the total gross textile production. They solve this issue through creating a new product that is feasible for the construction industry.
The innovative technological process used by “Netam” resulted with creating a knitted textile fabric with great insulation properties, which was copyrighted with the name “Isonet”. COVID-19 has partially obstructed the planned promotion of the innovation, but the company plans to penetrate both our country and the world markets. “Izonet” has both environmental and economic advantages and the construction industry is getting a much cheaper insulation material with great properties.
Environmental and economic challenge
“Netam” is a company that produces and sells textile products such as: non-woven fabric, bedding, pillows, covers, mattresses and mattress covers. They supply these products on the domestic and European market, and they are the only manufacturer of geotextile on the Macedonian market.
Reusing the textile waste comes from the process itself and the obligations we have as a company for its proper removal in accordance with the legislation, said Sasho Aceski, director of the investment and development sector in “Netam”.
That legislative obligation increases the expenses, with the environmental challenges being also big because this type of waste is a chemical pollutant for the environment, most of the time it is non-degradable and is toxic when burnt. Reducing these issues was the primary motive for Netam’s team to start with the research, which lasted for two years, on how to create environmental and economic benefit from these issues. According to Aceski, this represents the start of Netam’s story and the journey that the company had to take to create their own innovative product- thermal insulation construction materials made of textile waste.
The challenge to collect, recycle and process the waste material from the textile industry and create new products from it had great results. It’s the new line of products: insulation panels, fabric rolls, geotextile and other insulation materials that can be used in the construction or other industries. For that purpose, “Netam” invested in a new production line that was a result of the product development team in the company.
“To carry out this project “Netam” created a new department to collect, recycle and process the textile waste. Alongside our own resources we also used the expertise of UKIM’s Faculty of Civil Engineering, cooperating with experts and laboratories that tested the materials and certified their insulation qualities. We hired experts and consultants to expertly carry out the project alongside professors, engineers and other highly qualified workers” said Aceski.
Innovation methodology and the technological process
In collaboration with the laboratories of the Civil Engineering Faculty and the Chemistry institute of the faculty of natural sciences and mathematics, the company started the research on a more efficient way of recycling textile waste materials. It is a unique and innovative model because there is no production line in the whole country that uses that methodology, and in neighboring countries it is in the development phase. Those are the reasons why “Netam” went with the innovative approach – implement a totally new methodology of recycling and processing, which led to innovations in the technological process and the production line, having it size up and down according to the quantity of textile waste produced in the country.
The production line’s capacity is around 500kg per day and with the current COVID crisis conditions, around two metric tons are being processed every month.
“Isonet” is the end result, a material that can be used as a substitution for traditional construction insulation materials.
By innovating a new recycling process for textile waste and creating a production line, the company says, we deal with one of the worst issues in textile production industry, which is the textile waste.
“We collect the waste from the textile factories that want to recycle, we store it in “Netam” and we separate it according to its techno-chemical properties. Currently we have three permanent and over thirty occasional collaborating companies. After this, the material is processed into fiber structure which, by further thermo-chemical processing, is made into rolls. At this stage, with the available equipment, we can only process a part of the textile waste whose chemical structure fits the production process, which in case, is every textile waste based on polyethylene” says Aceski.
Around 16.599 metric tons of textile waste is produced in Macedonia yearly, from which a third is suitable for processing with the innovative technology, or on average, around 40 metric tons per year. The company says that, for now, they do not accumulate other textile waste and they do not think about processing it. They don’t consider the knitwear industry because the materials used there are with various chemical and mechanical materials, and the manufacturers have no will for sorting it.
“The issue with the grey area of the textile industry, reselling of textile waste as filling to illegal bedding manufacturers and the illegal dumping in landfills that are not meant for such materials, are a totally different topic that remains popular during the efforts of overcoming the issues with large quantities of textile waste”, said Aceski.
The project investment was a total of 7,3 million denars, from which the Fund for Innovation and Technological Development financed 70% or 5,1 million and “Netam” 30% or 2,2 million denars. Largest portion of the funding, around 50%, was invested into a fabric confectioning machine, with “Netam” further investing its own resources for transport and installing. The rest of the funds were invested into market research, laboratory testing, process patenting, trademarking etc.