KRICT has designed a breakthrough technology to accomplish closed-loop recycling of textile wastes


Newswise — The clothing marketplace accounts for 10% of world carbon emissions. The yearly quantity of fiber generation reached 113 million tons in 2021* and the need is rising each calendar year. However, just about 90% of put up-client fiber wastes are disposed of through incineration or in landfills. Amongst these kinds of squander, synthetic fiber has develop into a important risk to the setting and human wellbeing mainly because, identical to other plastics, it is not biodegradable in nature. Owing to its low expense and longevity, polyester is the most widely utilised artificial fiber on the earth, accounting for extra than 50 percent of all materials on a yearly basis manufactured. Complete recycling of polyester is therefore a significant challenge for environmental sustainability and the health and fitness of future generations.

*Source: Most popular Fiber & Resources Market Report 2022

In observe, crude textile waste is not suited for reuse or recycling due to the fact it is blended with various fabric supplies, coloured by diverse dyes, and contaminated by a variety of other impurities. Sorting it into homogeneous resources is vital to make the squander recyclable by a chemical or mechanical method. To this close, the study group (P.I.: Dr. Joungmo Cho) in Korea Analysis Institute of Chemical Technological innovation (KRICT) has produced a new chemical technological know-how referred to as ‘chemical sorting’. This technologies is utilized to individual polyester from waste textiles that are disposed of in a blended and contaminated form. In the course of action, a special chemical compound, which selectively disrupts the chemical interaction in between polyester and the dye utilized for its colour, is applied for the separation. The research team has also formulated a new chemical recycling know-how that consumes fewer vitality than typical procedures to transform polyester into precious monomers*, which can be continuously used for the synthesis of polymer supplies.

*monomer: a one molecular compound can respond with other monomer molecules to sort a polymer by chemical bonding

Postconsumer clothes, created up of many components with not known compositions, are normally discarded. They normally comprise a wide variety of textiles this sort of as cotton, wool, polyester, acrylic, nylon, elastane, and other blended fibers. Recycling are unable to be obtained devoid of sorting them into specific components due to the fact of their incompatible chemical and actual physical houses. Industrially, the separation of unique products from squander materials is achieved by manual sorting, mainly based on human labor. This process has small accuracy and is unreliable and in convert fails to collect homogeneous elements, which is often vital for additional ways of recycling. Just lately, research have been actively carried out to build an computerized sorting machine, using hyperspectral imaging technologies to get structural facts of individual fabric targets. Having said that, the sorting system continue to remains far from commercialization, largely thanks to specialized and economic boundaries.

The KRICT investigate crew adopted an affordable and non-poisonous biodegradable compound to chemically discriminate polyester from a mixture of squander fabrics. When the compound is utilized to textiles. colorants only current in polyester are fully extracted though no sizeable alterations take place in other products. As a consequence, cleanse polyester can be separated from the combination of coloured materials. The approach is applicable to pick polyester from an uncolored material mixture as properly. When uncolored cloth comes into get hold of with the squander colorants extracted from the sorting approach, only polyester accepts the colorants even though the other components continue being unchanged. As a consequence, the fabrics that contains only polyester can be divided from combined material squander in an affordable, precise, and facile manner. The resulting sorted polyester can be made use of as clean up feedstock for chemical recycling because the sorting method eradicates most organic and natural impurities like intractable dyes.

Chemical recycling, which converts polymer squander into the first constructing blocks, has probable to accomplish circularity in recycling of polyester wastes whilst mechanical recycling can be utilized to make only reduced good quality material. In the typical chemical recycling strategy, a superior reaction temperature of previously mentioned 200℃ is essential to fully decompose polyester. Furthermore, electricity-intensive purification steps are also unavoidable in most business apps to acquire a higher excellent monomer merchandise.

The KRICT investigate staff has produced a small-temperature glycolysis reaction program to convert chemically sorted waste polyester into pure bis(2-hydroxyethyl) terepthalate, which is an important setting up block monomer to generate new polymers. Monomer compounds received from the chemical recycling have excellent equivalent to that derived from petroleum. Considering that the same compound as that utilised in ‘chemical sorting’ features as an additive to lessen the power barrier of depolymerization, the reaction process can be simply and economically built-in with the chemical sorting technologies for purposes involving plastic or textile recycling the place there is substantial need for superior products high quality.

Dr. Cho claimed, “Recently, the garment industry has utilized transparent and clean submit-customer PET bottles to create recycled polyester outfits. Nevertheless, this system is not sustainable for the reason that the substance simply cannot be frequently recycled. In distinction, our present-day know-how would not be minimal by the complexity of the constituent elements or the initial degree of impurity in the waste. Whether the targeted components are derived from petroleum right or recycled from squander, the technological innovation can consistently method most publish-shopper textile streams. Consequently it will help lower waste in landfills and significantly obtain a round overall economy in the plastic and textile industries.”

The chemical recycling engineering has been certified to Renew Procedure Co., Ltd. (South Korea). Multidisciplinary R&D teams are now carefully doing the job together to create multi-scale facilities for the chemical recycling of squander clothes. A demonstration plant will be all set by the finish of 2024 and business operation with an yearly capability of 10,000 tons is planned to start in 2025.




KRICT is a non-earnings research institute funded by the Korean government. Considering the fact that its basis in 1976, KRICT has performed a primary purpose to advance national chemical technologies in the fields of chemistry, product science, environmental science, and chemical engineering. Now, KRICT is shifting ahead to come to be a globally primary study institute tackling the most tough troubles in the industry of Chemistry and Engineering and will carry on to satisfy its purpose in establishing chemical technologies that advantage the overall earth and keep our earth wholesome. Extra comprehensive facts on KRICT can be observed at

This review was supported by the Elements/Elements Technological know-how Progress Application funded by the Ministry of Trade, Field & Energy (MOTIE, Republic of Korea) and by the Institutional Plan of the Korea Analysis Institute of Chemical Know-how (KRICT). The analysis was published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, quantity 10 (51) and showcased on the front include of the quantity.

Credit: Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology (KRICT)

Usage Limitations of Multimedia (Attachment File): The resources of pics and exploration success from KRICT must be specified

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