Innovation in Recycling Techniques for the Textile Industry

10 Nov 2022
Fashion & Textiles
Textile waste, considered the great forgotten of the 21st century, represents an important part of municipal waste and of certain industrial sectors. Although there are not enough studies to provide conclusive data on how much textile material ends up in landfills, some studies estimate that it could be more than 90% that is discarded. This means that textiles represent one of the most important waste streams that does not have any regulation or a specific strategy for their waste management.
This problem is aggravated by the phenomenon known as “fast fashion”. Industries design and manufacture clothing collections quickly and at low cost in order to follow the latest fashion trends. Thus, the industry offers to consumers the possibility of accessing innovative garments at affordable prices and in a continuous way, which means the generation of large amounts of waste. Therefore, the need to establish a clear strategy for the management of this type of waste is evident.
RESPECT project proposes the development of a method for the recovery of textile waste through chemical recycling. For this, the depolymerization of multimaterial fabrics, composed mainly of polyester and cotton, has been carried out by solvolysis method, using different compounds as catalysts. After an extensive experimental study, the optimal reaction conditions were determined achieving the separation rate, between polyester and cotton, close to 100%. The depolymerization of the polyester was carried out with a conversion of 99%, obtaining as a principal product the monomer bis (2-hydroxyethylene) terephthalate (BHET) which can be used directly for the synthesis of new polyethylene terephtalate or unsaturated polyester resins. This method was applied to different fabrics with varied composition, such as polyurethane or polyamide, obtaining promising results. Therefore, chemical recycling has been shown to be a very good option for the recovery of this type of waste.
Mireia Fernández Bazán, Researcher - AIMPLAS - Technological Institute of Plastics