Have you heard of Cycora? ‘It is the regenerated alternative to conventional polyester, made from landfill-destined textile waste’, says Shay Sethi, ceo of the Los Angeles start-up company Ambercycle.
Ambercycle is pioneering a process for used textiles deemed ‘undesirable’ that typically escape the recycling loop. ‘We have the ability to separate fibres within textiles on a molecular level and reprocess them just like virgin materials,’ Sethi says.
He points out that the majority of modern fabrics are a blend of polyester and cotton, acrylic or spandex. ‘This makes the material difficult to recycle.’ Sethi’s company is now developing an ‘elegant’ recycling process based on advanced chemistry and engineering to tackle these textiles.
How does it work? Used clothing is broken down to their original constituents, and those molecules can be used to make brand-new clothing. ‘We recycle the polyester and have partners who handle the cellulose and spandex components,’ the entrepreneur adds.
Ambercycle, which he founded in 2019, is currently operating a pilot plant that handles tens of kilograms of clothing a day to verify the technical process. Next, Sethi’s goal is building a demonstration plant that will produce a tonne of material per day, which represents roughly 15 000 pieces of clothing.
‘Our approach enables true circularity for garments, creating premium quality materials that overcome the limitations of the mechanical recycling processes,’ Sethi states.
The ceo admits that the economic viability of recycling recycled polyester is still challenging, as virgin polymer costs only one dollar per kilogram. And yet, he is confident that expanding operations to commercial scale will render it a competitive business model.
A major advantage is that the innovative recycling process consumes 80 to 90% less energy per kilogram of material produced.
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