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Australian researchers discover how to reclaim polyester

Queensland University of Technology in Australia says it has discovered how to separate polyester from blended fabrics without damaging the fibres.

Australians send around 500 000 tonnes of textiles to landfill every year which translates to clothing worth AU$ 140 million (EUR 86.4 million) annually. Such items tend to have an average lifetime of only a couple of months. Smart minds across the world are asking the question; how can we do better?

Professor Robert Speight and Dr. Laura Navone report that a commercial enzyme is able to dissolve wool fibres from polyester and wool mix fabrics. ‘The polyester extracted from fabric can be made into polyester chips and turned into anything from yarn for new textiles to playground equipment,’ Speight says.

This is no mean feat considering polyester is incorporated into around 100 billion items of clothing every year. Speight maintains that recycled polyester is a ‘valuable tradable commodity’ and adds, ‘The value of recycled polyester has gone up significantly and gives clothing manufacturers a massive marketing advantage to be able to claim to be using recycled material.’

Navone says the next step is to partner with recycling companies to take the process to kilogram scale. This will allow the researchers to form a better understanding of the economics and the required design for commercial use.

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