Australian Researchers Are Recycling Textile Waste In Unexpected Ways

by: Well Made Clothes Staff | 2 weeks ago | News

Image: Textile waste. Image source.

According to the World Wear Project, textile waste takes up almost 5% of the world’s landfill space, with 20% of all freshwater pollution resulting from textile treatment and dyeing. In addition to this, vast amounts of energy are wasted throughout the fashion supply chain and chemical waste is rife as well. For example, according to the latest figures from the Cotton Advisory Committee (CAC), conventional cotton accounts for an estimated total 5% of pesticides and 14% of insecticides used worldwide. 

In other words, fashion is incredibly wasteful. Fortunately, though, scientists are now exploring a new way of recycling and repurposing clothes, which could serve to minimise waste in the fashion industry. And Australian researchers are at the forefront of this innovation.

The Fashion Law reports that “a team at Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials in Victoria, Australia has been working on designing materials and processes for a circular economy, including a solution for recycling textiles that involves dissolving cotton and regenerating it into brand-new cellulose.” Cotton is at the centre of this research, because cotton fibres are comprised of cellulose and can be repurposed into other cellulose-based products.

This regenerated cellulose can be used to make new textiles, or even be milled down into coloured powders for dyeing new clothes – which would help to minimise toxic waste in the textile dyeing process. Outside of the fashion industry, Deakin’s team is experimenting with using the regenerated cellulose in the medical field. In particular, they are working on regenerating cotton textiles and moulding them into a structure that is almost identical to cartilage in the joints of the body. Which could be revolutionary for arthritic patients.

As The Fashion Law points out, then, this research could prove "ground-breaking not just for the fight against textile waste but from a medical perspective, as well." And, as we celebrate World Environment Day this week, it’s reassuring to see local scientists doing their bit to find new ways of protecting both people and planet.

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