July 6, 2022

Closing the loop for mixed cotton/polyester waste textiles

A consortium led by Prof. Gert-Jan Gruter of Industrial Sustainable Chemistry at the Van ’t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has been awarded funding from the Dutch Research Council NWO to develop a new pathway towards circularity in textiles. The consortium sets out to upcycle mixed cotton/polyester textile waste into high quality molecular building blocks for chemicals and polymers production. The MIWATEX consortium (an acronym for Mixed cotton/polyester WAste TEXtiles) includes partners from chemical industry and businesses across the textiles value chain.

Recycling cotton/polyester blends

Textile recycling requires a relatively pure waste stream, but most textiles are made up of blends of two or more materials. As a result, a huge amount of textile waste ends up in landfills or incinerators each year: 110 million tonnes, or 13 kg per person globally. Clothing and other textiles containing a mix of cotton and polyester (PET) make up the largest part of this huge volume, but currently there are no viable techno-economic options for recycling cotton/polyester blends.

The MIWATEX consortium hopes to change that. The starting point is a recently developed approach for recycling cotton to valuable monomers using the so-called DAWN biorefinery technology developed by the Amsterdam-based chemical technology company Avantium. According to Gruter, who is CTO of Avantium, proof-of-principle was obtained for hydrolyzing cotton (cellulose) to valuable molecular building blocks, even when mixed with polyester. This opens a recycling route for both the cotton and the polyester from the mixed textile blends. The MIWATEX consortium aims to establish a recycling value chain based on this route.

This publication has been reproduced with permission from the University of Amsterdam. Source


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