Synthetic Fiber Recycling

Synthetic Fiber Recycling

Now a days the popularity of synthetic fiber made apparels increasing. Synthetic fibers are man made and considered as cost effective. In 2015, approximately 64% of readymade garments made by synthetic fiber.

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Polyester, Nylon, Acrylics & Elastane are the most used synthetic fiber in textile industry. Characteristics like durability, wrinkle resistant, water repellent, quick drying, easy wash creates huge demand of synthetic fiber made apparels in fashion industry specially for outerwear and sportswear.
However, comparing with natural fiber, synthetic fiber never considered as environmental friendly. The main reason is the high rate of global resources consumption for manufacturing virgin materials. Synthetic fiber derived from petroleum or natural gas which needed a lot of water and energy to produce.
Therefore, sustainable synthetic textile recycling management can be appropriate solution.

Recycling technology for synthetic fiber and blended fiber can be classified in two type:

1. Chemical Recycling
The apparels or other textile waste cutting down into small pieces for Chemical reaction. For synthetic fiber like 100% polyester, those small pieces decomposed through chemical process from where the material again can be used to regenerate new product.
Chemical recycling technology suitable for blended fiber fabric recycling as the fiber can be separated by chemical process. Some Recent research demanded that, it is possible to dissolves cellulose and after certain filtration process regeneration of new product from cellulosic fiber is possible.

2. Mechanical Recycling
Traditional Recycling technology usually cutting up the material or disassembled the garments for mechanical process to breakdown the fiber. It is also known as garneting*. The properties of outcome materials depends on the waste. Normally waste from pre consumer stage can be respun to regenerated new fibers. Medium quality fibers and low quality fibers are normally used to make lower grade fabric.

Polyester

Polyester is now the single largest fiber group in the world. About 65-70% Polyester produced for textile and rest of 35-30% used for bottle (PET) manufacture. Researcher proved that it is possible to producing polyester material using used bottle (PET- polyethylene terephthalate) which is most important commercial polyester polymer in global material economy. At present there are many companies producing their polyester made apparels by using recycled PET. Polyester can be recycled both physical and chemical way. In physical method, The Post consumer PET waste can be directly melted to convert other product. Chemical method has extensive feature. The process start with cutting polyester waste in to small pieces and then create chips for decomposed to form dimethyl terephthalate, which can repolymerized for regenerating new yarn or filament.

Patagonia: This company started selling 100% recycled polyester made outdoor apparels from 1993. At the beginning, they recycled polyester waste from soda bottle to make polyester fleece fabric. Instead of using virgin polyester as raw materials, they used recycled polyester which reduces extensive use of global resources. At present, they are recycling soda bottle, industrial scarps and specially the garments they are selling which complete closed-loop clothing manufacturing. Their worn wear program allow customer to back their old Patagoina apparels , as return customer are gettting credit for new purchase, after sorting the garments , Patagonia will repair those garments for reuse and sell in discounted prices in worn wear website.

Nau : Established in 2007 by a group of designer with the aim of sustainable readymade garment brand. They are producing outdoor performance apparels from 100% recycled polyester. They recycle polyester in mechanical method from plastic bottle, industrial polyester waste and post-consumer product to save energy and reduce environmental foot print.
Denali Jacket by North face : Famous outdoor apparels retailer North Face has taken several project for recycling polyester. One of their core product is Denali Jacket, where they use recycled polyester from used water or soda bottle. They use traditional mechanical way by shredding the waste into small pieces and melt it down to reproduce yarn. However, they have also modified the production process to reduce chemical use and energy consumption. As they have observed, dyeing in fabric form requires lot of water, chemical & energy, they started dyeing in yarn form for black grey color which saves almost 50% chemical & water. They are using the scraps left over after production, they can make 4 new Denali Jacket by scarps of 10 Denali jacket production.

Teijin : Popular recycled yarn exporter Teijin established in 2012. Their innovative technology introduced several recycled fibers and materials, those are using by different brand for producing apparels. Teijin eco circle fiber?® made from 100% recycling polyester from plastic bottle and other polyester waste provide equivalent quality & properties like virgin polyester materials. Teijin Eco-Storm?® is a highly functional waterproof and breathable material made from 100% recycled polyester. They are using closed-loop recycling system for manufacturing both fiber and materials.

Nike : With the vision of closed-loop recycling, nike working on sustainable fashion production for a long time. According to their annual sustainability report in 2016, 71% of their product use recycled material. They are producing high performance apparels from recycled polyester converted from plastic bottle (PET) which reduces 30% of energy consumption compared to virgin polyester production. One of their recent product is Nike Hyper Elite basketball shorts which is made from 100% recycled polyester and the jersey made from 96% recycled polyester.

Adidas : To improve environmental foot print, Adidas taken several initiative. One of their remarkable step is using recycled materials to make shoes and high performance apparels. With the association of Parley (a design initiative and global network), Adidas collect plastic waste (PET) & fishing net from the coast side of Maldives. After that they send it to Adidas supplier, located in Taiwan. They shredded the waste and melted it to make new products. In 2014, Adidas used 11 Million yards of polyester which is equivalent to 7 million Adidas t-shirts.

Synthetic-Natural Blend Fiber Recycling

Fashion demand diversity and high competition in fast fashion industry forces brands to find various solution for cheap price and quality product. Based on design, comfortability & function, wide ranges of complex textile apparels available in market. There are also lot of synthetic “ natural blended fiber fabric exist in the apparels industry, however, one of the most common fiber blend is Cotton Polyester. Cotton has soft, good absorbency & good hand feel quality whereas polyester is strong, durable and cheap. The composition of two different properties fiber creates a perfect blend for ready-made apparels industry.

At present, there are many well established recycle technology available for mono fiber textile recycling like 100% cotton or 100% polyester recycling but highly efficient & commercially viable technology for recycling blended fiber fabric apparels not yet available.
The main challenge of recycling complex material is separation of the component without degrading the quality of each material. Firstly, due to blending of synthetic and natural fiber, fiber strength is much higher than mono fiber fabric which creates difficulties to shred or open the fiber.

Secondly, sorting process become difficult because of different types of blending.
There are others factors to be consider including outcome materials should have good commercial value which should cover the logistic, process cost, labor cost and profit. There are several process and research outcome has been published recent years regarding recycling of blended fiber fabric apparels.

Blend Re:wind “ a Swedish process for the recycling of poly-cotton blended textiles
It’s a result of six years (2011-2017) research done by Dr Hanna de la Motte and her team with Swedish Mistra Future Fashion by the Chalmers University of Technology, RISE Research Institutes of Sweden and the international forest industry group Sidra.The process mainly focused on most common blend polyester and cotton fiber blended textiles. At first the fabric cut into small pieces and defibrated for chemical treatment. Separation can be done by depolymerizing or dissolving one of the materials in blend. In this case, the polyester fiber (PET) part used to for depolymerizing or dissolving. For chemical process Benzyltributylammonium chloride (BTBAC, purity ?‰?98%), sodium hydroxide (NaOH, reagent grade), and sulfuric acid (H2SO4, reagent grade, 95“97%) were used. As a result of chemical process the cotton part produce cellulose pulp which can be regenerate other cellulosic textile fiber such as viscose or lyocell. In addition, the polyester part gives polyester monomer which can be used for again making polyester fiber.

Our separation process, Blend Re:wind, is developed having existing industrial processes in mind, and our aim is to integrate as much as possible to minimize bothenvironmental and economic costs, while boosting businesses. Scaling up from lab scale is the biggest challenge at the moment, and it is also costly. The integration possibilities of the Blend Re:wind process would however address these challenges in feasible ways. – Hanna de la Motte, theme leader for theme 4, Recycling, within Mistra Future Fashion and research scientist at RISE.

Reuse : A waste is not real waste if it is reusable or raw materials of other product. The idea of reuse not new, from the beginning of civilization, human used to reuse the product to avoid different crisis. At present to cope up with fast changing fashion & trend, a lot of garments are thrown away before its life cycle ended. Elizabeth L. Cline, writer of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion wrote in her book- Because of the low price, chasing trends is now a mass activity, accessible to anyone with a few bucks to spare.
There are many brands started take-back program. Such as Swedish fashion retailer Lindex, started an initiative to collect old garments from the customer for best possible reuse and recycle.

After sorting, reusable textile sold in second hand chain Myrorna’s shops. Popular retail brand H&M collect old clothes from customer with association of I:CO. They categorized collected cloth in three purposes, apparels those can be worn again sold in 2nd hand shop, those are not wearable turned into cleaning cloth or proceed to further recycling process. Fashion brand Zara collaborating with REDRESS ( a Hong Kong based NGO) collecting clothes from customer to reuse, upcycling and recycling.Upcycling : Transforming an used apparels into an upgraded or higher value apparels or product is one of the best way to deal textile waste. First book on upcycling published in 1998, written by Gunter Paul.

The idea than getting popularity in recycling industry. Traditional recycling process convert every waste in to raw material of other product and most of the time it used for producing lower quality product which is known as down cycling. On the contrary, upcycling convert the waste into more valuable product with creative transformation. At present, there are many brands taken upcycling initiative as a part of their sustainable fashion program. In addition, there many upcycling brands getting popularity like regular fashion brands. Popular upcycling brand Re/Done released 120 pair vintage levi’s jeans on their website in summer 2014, within 25 minutes all jeans sold out whereas there were more than two thousand people on the waiting list to buy.

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