• Eliza Cushman

Sortile

Problem


On average, people buy 68 clothing items per person per year in the US. 92 million tons of textile waste are generated annually worldwide. 85% of textile waste is landfilled, yet 95% of textile waste has the potential to be recycled. Consumers are prioritizing sustainability at point-of-sale, brands are demanding recycled fabrics, and policymakers are implementing new regulations to facilitate recycling infrastructure. Fast fashion giants such as Inditex, H&M, and Gap are publicly committing to sustainably sourced material targets. The New York Fashion Act, if passed, would make history as the first legislation creating broad sustainability accountability for the fashion industry. However, the textile recycling process today relies on a manual sorting infrastructure that creates a bottleneck inhibiting scalability. Sorters today discard at a cost of 50% of the volume they process because it is not considered high enough quality for resale and it is economically unfeasible to manually sort by fiber composition. Today, recycled fibers make up less than 1% of the material used in the fashion industry. Sortile believes its technology will help make recycled fibers the main material used in the future of fashion.


The current textile recycling process relies on the manual sorting of items, which is slow, inaccurate, and costly


Solution

Sortile unlocks the potential to sort by fiber composition and enables textile-to-textile recycling


Sortile is changing the landscape of textile recycling by recognizing that textile waste is a lost economic opportunity. Sortile seeks to empower existing sorting practices through a proprietary technology that helps sorters identify fiber composition of clothing quickly and efficiently. To do so, Sortile uses a technology called near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS). NIRS can be used to determine substance concentration including the identification of raw materials. Sortile couples NIRS with machine learning to efficiently identify fibers in recycled clothing, unlocking the potential to sort by fiber composition and expedite textile-to-textile recycling. Sortile’s technology identifies over 5 fiber compositions with 95% accuracy, reducing processing time by more than half by eliminating the need to manually check clothing tags to sort different materials. In addition, Sortile provides data analytics capabilities to its customers, enabling transparency and efficiency in managing textile streams. Sortile makes money from both a one-time technology installation fee and recurring monthly licensing of its technology and proprietary data management software. As a data centric company, Sortile plans to leverage its data to consult with customers and bring solutions to scale.



Sortile hardware during sorting flow


Impact


Sortile creates both economic value and social impact. By allowing sorting facilities to identify material that can be resold in the recycling market, Sortile creates new revenue streams with the ability to boost revenue up to 15%. Additionally, 1 ton of textile diverted reduces 3.3 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By providing a technology that helps to make textile recycling a profitable business, Sortile has the power to catalyze change.


Founders


Sortile co-founders Constanza Gomez (CEO) and Agustina Mir (COO) met serendipitously in Sheena Iyengar’s Think Bigger class at Columbia University. Constanza was enrolled as an MBA student at Columbia Business School and Agustina was enrolled as an MPA student in Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). The two immediately connected on their passion for textile sustainability in the fashion industry. From there, they set on a path to connect with everyone they possibly could in the industry from brands to recyclers to sorting houses. Coincidentally, both founders are Chilean and studied at The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. They recently added a software engineer and third co-founder, Florencia Valladares (CTO). Sortile caught the eye of Florencia’s sister who later introduced Florencia to the two original co-founders. Florencia began working part time on Sortile’s technology infrastructure and ultimately became so passionate about the company that she left her prior role to join Constanza and Agustina full time. The rest is history!


Progress


Since its launch in August 2021, Sortile has created two prototypes, completed two paid consulting projects, and piloted with three paid customers including Goodwill (which has an estimated 400 sorting locations throughout the US). So far, Sortile has processed 30k pounds of volume, recycled 12k pounds of fabric, created $6k in economic value, saved 50 tons of GHG emissions, and is revenue generating. The founders have won $61k in grants and were finalists at Circularity 22, the largest circular economy conference in the US. At Columbia, they won the Columbia Venture Competition Startup Challenge and the SIPA Dean's Challenge and came in second place in the Columbia BlocPower Climate Challenge. They have raised capital with friends and family and are currently fundraising with multiple angel networks and institutional investors for the next phase of business development. To get involved, sign up for updates on their website and follow them on Instagram. To learn more or get in touch, reach out to the team here: constanza@sortile.co.