Recycling Cotton - is this the stepping stone?

Recycling Cotton - is this the stepping stone?

This new cotton recycling process allows garments made of 100% recycled cotton to be produced. An inexpensive process developing it as a solution for the industry! The material the recycling process produces is not cotton fibres, but lyocell. 
Industrial production is expected by late 2015 or early 2016, while future developments will broaden the variety of raw material that can be accepted, therefore increasing the amount of garments that can be recycled.

The Process

Re:newcell's recycling process:
1. Textiles are sorted and ripped into fragments.
2. Fragments are treated in a chemical stage where it is dissolved into a liquid extracting fibres other than cotton and viscose.
3. The liquid is then treated and then dried, resulting in a pulp.


Benefits

Being able to recycle cotton which can be remade into garments without having to blend it with virgin fibres is a considerable benefit, and the process offers fully recycled material to work with.
The material also has a potential to be used over and over again (Norlin says this is possible in theory but has yet to be tested), which would further reduce the need for new fibres. While it is cotton being recycled, it is not cotton being produced and so it can’t satisfy those looking for cotton garments, although it doesn’t mean it won't have an effect on the market.
“As the general demand for textiles is growing I don't think we will be reducing the amount of cotton very much, but we will reduce the increase in cotton production,” Norlin said. “I think that recycled fibres will be used to cover the increased demand and thereby decrease cotton's relative market size.”

What's next?

Re:newcell is searching for a partner to help take the process to a commercial scale, driving the demand throughout the production chain and lending it credibly throughout the industry.
They aim to make a final decision by the end of the year resulting in several possibilities, including producing and selling the recycled material itself or licensing the technology to brands and retailers to use in their own programmes, but Norlin said that no decisions have yet been taken and it will ultimately depend on the partner they select. 
Technologically there is more development work to be done.

“We want to be able to accept a greater variety of raw material, with a lower percentage of cellulosic material,” Norlin said. “There’s plenty of material available for us to use now, but I think that’s the big part we need to develop.”

In the future, Norlin envisages a time when recycling clothing is a common occurrence that, like paper, the materials resulting from it are often used in products without even highlighting they are recycled.

“But we have to be patient,” he said. “With paper, we’re only collecting about 65% of it and that’s after 50 years of industrial recycling. But in time I think we will see a lot of things coming together, and we may see a closed-loop for this type of textile.”

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