The textile revolution: why we’ve backed Syre 

May 23, 2024

The textile industry casts a long shadow, responsible for a staggering 10% of global emissions. Its traditional practices are unsustainable, from the environmental devastation caused by cotton production to the mountains of discarded clothing piling up in landfills, releasing harmful toxins. Even downcycling doesn't address the core issue – the reliance on virgin materials and creating more waste.

The biggest problem is polyester, which accounts for around 54% of the textile market and is projected to reach €160 billion by 2030. Its crude oil production results in habitat destruction, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and harmful waste. 

What if we could decarbonise and de-waste the textile industry? Everything from fashion to home interiors, industrial textiles and beyond?

Enter Syre, our latest portfolio company, leading the charge with its innovative approach to textile-to-textile recycling. We’re thrilled to support their €100 million Series A raise!

A life less linear 

Current textile production is linear: take, make, dispose. Virgin materials like crude oil are processed into textiles and then discarded, creating massive waste. This linear model is environmentally unsustainable and economically inefficient. 

The leading feedstock used in linear textile recycling today is rPET bottles (polyethene terephthalate). This involves collecting, sorting, cleaning, shredding, and melting the plastic to create new fibres for textile production, reducing the need for virgin polyester derived from crude oil. However, this system faces challenges such as the energy-intensive recycling process, potential degradation of material quality over time, and the ongoing issue of microplastic pollution, which can still occur from recycled polyester products. 

Furthermore, it remains linear: once these recycled textiles are used, they still end up in landfills.

What do we need? A truly circular textile model is needed—one that embraces longevity and recyclability. In this model, worn-out textiles are transformed into high-quality new materials, creating a closed-loop system. This system reduces environmental impact, minimises waste, enhances resource efficiency, and creates economic opportunities.

Enter Syre

Syre is championing the holy grail for textiles – chemical fibre-to-fibre recycling. This method breaks down plastic molecules into their monomers using chemicals, allowing for processing a broader range of feedstocks compared to mechanical recycling. Essentially, old polyester garments can be "de-polyesterized" and reconstituted into new garments. This innovation significantly reduces the need for virgin materials, lowers the carbon footprint of textile production, and diverts waste from landfills. 

Shared values

The textile industry is a significant carbon emitter, yet startups often struggle to secure capital and labour for impactful innovations. We've previously ventured into sustainable fabric sourcing with Material Exchange, but recognise the need for transformative source-change strategies.

"The textile industry desperately needs a revolution," says Tove Larsson, General Partner at Norrsken VC. "We invested in Syre because they are tackling a huge challenge with the right team, product, and ambition to drive transformative change.”

Why Syre chose us

Syre sought an investor who shared their vision for a sustainable future and understood their technology's transformative potential. Syre's CEO, Dennis Nobelius, says, "We're thrilled to partner up and receive support from Norrsken VC," he explains. 

"They are strongly aligned with our values – founded in the Nordics, with ESG and impact at its core, and with a strong team supporting our upcoming scaling across the globe. We are particularly interested in their experience and presence in the Nordics and Africa. We couldn't be happier to have Norrsken VC on board."

Where the funding will go

The recent funding round will finance the construction of Syre's blueprint plant in the U.S., set to be operational later this year. This will be followed by preparations to establish the company’s first two gigascale textile-to-textile recycling plants. 

After a thorough global site selection process, Syre has shortlisted Vietnam and Iberia as the locations for its first two plants. Both regions are strategically positioned within the textile supply chain and have a long history of a vibrant textile industry, with access to know-how, feedstock, logistics, and green energy. The specific site selection process now continues with the goal of starting the construction process in 2025.

Weaving a more sustainable future

One recycled fibre at a time, Syre is weaving a future where the textile industry transforms from a source of environmental destruction to a model of sustainability. Here at Norrsken VC, we couldn’t be happier to support Dennis, Sanna and the whole team and to cheer them on from the sidelines!

Curious to hear more about circular polyester? Head to the Syre website:

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