Every year, the EU citizens throw, on average, 11 kilos of textiles into the household rubbish which is subsequently burnt. Thus, the value of millions of tons of textiles literally goes up in flames every year. COWI and RISE are now developing a new method with the purpose of handling this resource.
The methods used for recycling today are mostly suited for colourless clothes which are made from the same type of fibre. However, these methods are not suited for textile products combined by different materials. During 2022, COWI and RISE will lead a research project which is funded by COWIfonden and takes on this challenge. The objective is to advance a chemical process that divides and recycles material that consists of a blend of polyester, nylon, and stretch material. These combinations are common in sportswear, underwear, and tights.
"This is an exciting project, since COWI can contribute to increasing recycling and green transition. It is very interesting to be part of the research project at this early stage. COWI has good experience with industry projects, and we can contribute with our broad competence within various process-technical solutions. We look forward to collaborating with RISE, and it will be good to see, what we can achieve together," says Karolina Albinsson, who is the contact person on the project.
In the first phase of the project, we will examine various chemical concepts. In the subsequent phase, proposals in relation to an industrial implementation of the most promising concept will be presented.
"From a global perspective, this research can contribute to circular handling of synthetic textiles by replacing combustion and waste disposal with a chemical recycling process. The recycled raw material must be used for manufacturing of textile and plastic and thus reduce the dependency of fossil raw materials," says Cecilia Mattsson, who is the coordinator on the project and works for RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden. She continues:
"Today, many initiatives have been made within chemical recycling and one of the challenges will be to recycle blended textile waste-streams. The current project is a spinoff from several projects in RISE that treat recycling of plastic and textiles. These projects focus on one type of plastic and fibre, PET and polyester, and are undergoing an industrial development phase."
The interdisciplinary project team consists of people from RISE, Research Institutes of Sweden, and COWI in Sweden, and is coordinated by RISE. The name of the project is RE:MIX III: chemical recycling of blended, synthetic textiles – a new source for recycled PET and polyamide polymer, which is funded with SEK 1.5 million from COWIfonden. The project starts in January 2022 and will be completed in December 2022.
The project is supported by a consortium consisting of Sportswear, KappAhl, Swedish Stockings, FOV Fabrics, Novoplast, IKEM, TEKO, Västra Götalandsregionen and Kemi- och Materialklustret in West Sweden.