Trash to trendy: UK project looks to convert waste into textiles

November 30, 2020 |

In the United Kingdom, a consortium of researchers is developing a process to convert household waste, biomass, and fabric into new textiles. They hope that the £5.4 million (USD$7.2 million) project with the Royal College of Art will help improve the sustainability profile of the textile market. 

“The clothing and fashion sector is currently one of the most polluting, responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of global waste water,” Professor Simon McQueen-Mason tells BBC.  

The UK’s fashion industry has sales of around £32 billion, with most of the material imported. But the trend toward fast fashion also means the clothing is soon tossed in the garbage, and a million tons of clothing end up in UK incinerators or landfills every year, according to the BBC. 

To create the fabrics, scientists use enzymes to break down the various wastes and extract sugars. The sugars are then converted to cellulose, which is spun into fibers at the University of Cranfield.

Students at the Royal College of Art will eventually create clothing out of the resulting fabrics. The Universities of York, Leeds, Manchester, Cambridge, and University College London are participating in the consortium. 

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Category: Chemicals & Materials

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