In Germany alone, more than one million tons of textiles are disposed of every year. Soon there could be a chemical recycling: Swedish researchers have succeeded in producing three high-quality starting materials from a used polyester-cotton fiber blend for further use in textiles and the chemical industry.

New raw materials from old clothes

Blend Re:wind is the name of the research project of Mistra, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research. After more than six years of work, the scientists around Dr. Hanna de la Motte presented new viscose fibers which they have obtained after a successful chemical recycling process of polyester-cotton-fiber blends. In this process, the textile mixture is broken down into three new product streams: new high-quality viscose fibers are created from cotton and the polyester is transformed into two pure new monomers. This means that not only one raw material is recycled, but also several other materials that come from a mixed fabric.

The gained materials are used again for production

It was important to the researchers that these substances could be used for the production of new textiles and, thus, complete the cycle. The viscose fibers obtained from recycling have the same quality as newly produced fibers. The monomers can be used in existing chemical processes. The link to existing industrial processes was important to the researchers: “When we developed the separation process Blend Re:Wind, we had existing industrial processes in mind,” says research director Hanna de la Motte. Our aim is to integrate as many of them as possible in order to minimize costs for the environment and for the businesses, “. This is how chemicals, which are also used in the Swedish forestry viscose industry, are used in the splitting up.

Large companies such as H&M and Helly Hansen were acquired as partners

The scientists had a budget of 600,000 euros available for their research project. Now they are faced with the task of spreading their results as widely as possible in order to achieve a recycling process on an industrial scale. De la Motte: “Scaling is a big challenge. But with this process and the partners we have on board, we are very optimistic. The aim of Mistra Future Fashion is to bring about a positive change. We also do want this change to start very soon.” Mistra has access to a broad network of partners, including H&M, Houdini, Lindex, boob, Helly Hansen and Remake.

The recently announced research results have already caused a sensation among experts. For example, the results of Blend Re:wind have been awarded the Young Investigator Award 2017 and the Environmental Scholarship 2017 by Renova.



Bilder: RISE – Dr. Hanna de la Motte