The Fashion for Good industrial consortium was launched last year with the aim of bringing innovative and disruptive solutions for the recycling of rayon and other synthetic cellulosic fibers to the global textile market. Now the group has expanded its reach to include polyester. In both cases they aim high. Rather than recycling recovered fibers, Fashion for Good aims to increase the recycling of fabrics and send those fibers back into the garment production stream.
Eliminate a mountain of fabric scraps with chemistry
Based in Denmark, Fashion for the good is a walnut soup partnership founded with a singular purpose: to implement new innovative chemical recycling processes in the fashion industry.
Conventional textile recycling typically involves mechanical or heat-based processes, such as crushing or melting. The resulting material is often of inferior quality, which limits the range of the market for recycled material.
For example, until recently plastic bottles could not be recycled into new plastic bottles. The market for recycled paper was also limited.
New advances in recycling technology have expanded the recycled paper market and plastics. This includes the new chemistry-based processes which break down plastic waste into elementary blocks, which can be reassembled into new materials that behave like – or even better – starting materials.
Recycling fabrics from fabric to fabric would certainly upset the fashion industry as we know it today. When Fashion For Good started its “Full Circle Textiles Project – Scaling Innovations in Cellulosic Recycling” program last year, the organization said up to 73% of garments globally end up in the trash and less than 1% recycled fiber makes its comeback in the fabric for the fashion industry.
Polyester fiber destined for recycling
These figures probably haven’t moved much since last year, but the collaborative and team-based strategy at Fashion for Good has shown enough progress on recycling cellulosic fiber to form the foundation for a second team, focusing on polyester.
“The Full Circle Textiles Project – Polyester brings together a consortium of stakeholders including brands, innovators, supply chain partners and catalytic lenders – a structure that has proven successful in driving and scaling disruptive innovation in the industry, “explains Fashion for Good.
The polyester team includes catalytic lender Laudes Foundation, along with Adidas, Bestseller, C&A, PVH Corp., Target and Zalando. Also affiliated with the team are Arvind Limited, the Textile Division of WL Gore & Associates and Teijin Frontier.
On the chemical side, the companies Cure Technology, Garbo, Gr3n and Perpetual are among the recycling innovators selected to apply chemical processes to post-consumer textile waste.
“The project aims to validate the technologies and scalability potential; pushing further implementation / acquisition agreements to drive chemical recycling in the industry and mobilize more funding in technology, “explains Fashion for Good.
This is not recycling your parents’ fabrics
The Polyester Fashion for Good team already has an edge. Cure Technology, for example, has an up and running pilot plant. Its chemical-based process can recycle other plastics in addition to polyester fabrics, including PET bottles, films and carpets.
The diversified company Garbo has made extensive industrial contacts since its roots in 1997 in the field of material recovery for the semiconductor industry. Among his current collaborations is the Reciplast initiative aimed at plastics used in the packaging and automotive industries.
Garbo states that his “ChemPET“process is” unable to deal most PET-based waste which is currently not recoverable. ”The process produces a building block called BHET (bis-hydroxy-ethylene-terephthalate). Once purified, BHET can be used in place of virgin petrochemical inputs.
The Gr3n company demonstrates a similar level of cutting-edge technology. Its energy-efficient process takes place in microwave-assisted reactors.
“We can obtain terephthalic acid (TPA) and monoethylene glycol (MEG) from bottles and fabrics in less than 10 minutes and working at less than 200 ° C,” notes the company.
More bad news for oil and gas stakeholders
Rounding out the innovation team is Perpetual, which emphasizes that its chemical “deconstruction” process provides a drop-in substitute for virgin petrochemicals.
“… The filtered ester stream is ready to be reformed into repetitive long chains (eg polyester) using the same equipment and comparable process conditions as would be used for conventional petrochemicals; except, in this case, the starting material is used post-consumer bottles and new petrochemical derivatives of crude oil that are not harmful to the environment, “explains Perpetual.
The emphasis on rapid replacement should be a warning sign for those hoping to keep demand for oil, natural gas and coal alive.
Fossil energy stakeholders depend on growing demand for plastics and more petrochemicals to stay afloat for years to come, now that both the power generation and transportation markets have begun to show signs that rapid decarbonization it is immanent. However, plastic is no longer a safe thing.
The trend towards reducing dependence on fossil and petrochemical energy is already showing signs of acceleration in energy production And transport markets.
With partnerships like Fashion for Good, the textile recycling movement is poised to disrupt the global textile market as well.
Image Credit: Divazus Fabric Store via Unsplash