Researchers develop polyester extraction and reuse method

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researchers have developed a treatment to extract and reuse polyester from polyester/wool mix fabrics.

Through extraction and reuse, the researchers hope to divert some of the 92 million tonnes of textiles sent to landfill each year.

QUT Institute for Future Environments faculty Robert Speight and Laura Navone found that a commercial enzyme dissolves wool fibres from polyester and wool mix fabrics, without damaging the polyester strands.

“Recycled polyester is a valuable tradable commodity,” Prof Speight said.

“The polyester extracted from fabric can be made into polyester chips and turned into anything from yarn for new textiles to playground equipment.”

Prof Speight said the value of recycled polyester has gone up significantly in recent years, and gives clothing manufacturers a marketing advantage when able to claim recycled material.

“Adidas, for example, has committed to using only recycled plastic by 2024, which includes polyester – contributing to the demand for recycled polyester,” he said.

Prof Speight said the next phase was to partner with recycling companies to scale and commercialise the process.

QUT Co-researcher Associate Professor Alice Payne said Australians send 500,000 tonnes of textiles to landfill every year.

“Australians discard an estimated $140 million worth of clothes each year, with an average lifetime of three months for each item,” Prof Payne said.

According to Prof Payne, polyester is incorporated in much of the 80-150 billion items of clothing made each year.

“Separating and reusing polyester is part of the drive to prevent waste in the fashion industry,” she said.

“Other ways to prevent waste is to use clothing longer, buy second hand rather than new, and circulate, lend, borrow, repair, upcycle or resell no longer wanted clothing.”

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Victorian recycling research and development grants now open

Sustainability Victoria has opened applications for Research, Development and Demonstration Grants of up to $200,000 for projects that can increase the quality of recycled products sold in Victoria.

Businesses, local governments and researchers can apply for grants between $50,000 and $200,000 to help stimulate markets for products made from recovered resources.

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Projects that investigate one or more materials which have specific supply or demand side barriers which could be overcome with support from the government are encouraged to apply.

Concrete and brick, electronic waste, glass, organic material, paper and cardboard, plastics, rubber and textiles have all been identified as targeted materials for the grant.

The grants have been designed to support the industry in commercialising new products and processing approaches and to increase the end market uptake and demand for the targeted materials.

Successful applicants will have their projects matched dollar for dollar by the state government.

Previous research projects included alternative uses for glass fines and flexible plastics in construction and manufactured products, such as railway sleepers, plastics in concrete footpaths, glass in non-load bearing concrete and roof tiles made from glass waste.

Sustainability Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said the grants would increase job creation, develop quality products for end markets and increase investment in products made from recovered resources.

“Recent shifts in the current international recycling in gives Victoria greater impetus to develop local markets for the products we can recycle,” Mr Krpan said.

“It is crucial such markets are developed so the value of recovered resources is realised.

“This funding provides industry the opportunity to develop and trial new or existing products and specifications that use significant and reliable quantities of targeted materials,” he said.

The program will also inform the industry of the possible opportunities to use recovered materials in manufacturing to support using products made from recycled content.

“Recycling is an increasingly important community issue, and we are committed to maximising the opportunities to support new markets that use significant and reliable volumes of priority materials,” Mr Krpan said.

“It’s also an opportunity for universities and industry to work together to develop practical solutions to an important, and costly, community issue, which will benefit us all.

For more information about applying for the grant, click here.

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