Cotton production today accounts for enormous environmental impacts and emissions worldwide. Toghether with University of Borås / The Swedish School of Textiles we are currently reviewing the cotton recycling techniques to increase circularity. This is because more material can return to the Wheel of Circularity and get a fresh start. There are both chemical and mechanical techniques for recycling cotton and the choices are great. The problem with mechanically recycled cotton is that the fibers are shortened by the hard tearing process, which makes it difficult to use in high-quality products. Therefore, it is common for them to be used in insulation and other types of applications where fiber-lengths play less of a role. There are similarities in the chemical process of degrading cellulose where different types of solvents are used to separate the cellulose and produce regenerated cellulose.
There are many factors that come into play for both chemical and mechanical recycling, including the degree of polymerization, the aging of the cellulose, chemicals and the spinning techniques used. There are articles and knowledge for each technique but no one who addresses both and compares them.
Our research aim to find out which method is best suited in the long run to retain the properties of the recycled yarn and imitate the virgin yarn. With this, the circularity surrounding the recycling of cotton will increase. To demonstrate the results of the respective recycling techniques, an LCA has been performed using HIGG’s index, as well as a SWOT analysis. Recycled cotton shows a lower carbon dioxide equivalent compared to that of conventional cotton. We show that there are many ways to improve the possibilities with both chemical and mechanical recycling through plasticizers, other lubricants and the choice of solvent for the chemical recycling. The significance of this research globally and for society can mean that we minimize our environmental impact and the resources we continuously use today. Which ultimately contributes to an increased circular economy and a smaller landfill of textile waste.
The research is currently only available in Swedish.