Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists have discovered how a commercially available enzyme could help prevent polyester from ending up in landfills.
Professor Robert Speight and Dr Laura Navone found that the enzyme dissolves wool fibers from polyester and wool mix fabrics, without damaging the polyester strands.
This could prove useful in extracting and reusing polyester from polyester/wool mix fabrics and help prevent some of the 92 million tons of textiles dumped every year going to the landfill.
“Recycled polyester is a valuable tradable commodity,” notes Speight. “The polyester extracted from fabric can be made into polyester chips and turned into anything from yarn for new textiles to playground equipment.”
“The value of recycled polyester has gone up significantly and gives clothing manufacturers a massive marketing advantage to be able to claim recycled material.”
“Adidas, for example, has committed to using only recycled plastic by 2024 which includes polyester – contributing to the demand for recycled polyester.”
Speight and his colleagues are now hoping to partner with recycling companies to take the process to kilogram scale and understand more about the process design for commercial use and the economics.
Co researcher Associate Professor Alice Payne says that Australians send 500,000 tons of textiles to landfill every year:
“Australians discard an estimated $140 million worth of clothes each year with an average lifetime of three months for each item.”
“Polyester is incorporated in much of the 80-150 billion items of clothing made each year.”
“It is favored on its own or incorporated with natural fibers like cotton or wool because it is durable, light weight, easy-care with anti-wrinkle properties.”
“These properties make it the fabric of choice for uniforms in such industries as banking, aviation and health.”
Image and content: Queensland University of Technology (QUT)