Material Companies Innovating with Waste
Header: The first dress made out of blue jeans that had been recycled with re:newcell technology. Source: re:newcell.
According to the World Bank over 2.1 billion tonnes of waste was created in 2016 globally, with 12% of all solid waste being plastic. 33% of this waste is currently mismanaged through open dumping and incineration. Exhaustive of the global waste statistics, textile waste alone amounts to 92 million tons annually, which is equivalent to one truckload of textiles being dumped for landfill or incineration every second. With these alarming statistics that are only predicted to rise in the coming years, there is an enormous opportunity to minimize waste and maximize possible resource use.
Luckily, material and innovation companies are rapidly launching and exploring solutions to innovate the possibilities with waste and investigate end-of-life options of different materials. Some of the companies that are leading sustainable innovation currently are:
Repreve is a leading synthetic performance fibre that recycles waste by tackling the issue of discarded water bottles. The fibre can be used from anything from outdoor gear, to workout clothes, to car interiors. Through their recycling collection program, Repreve has recycled over 15 billion plastic water bottles since its inception in 2007. Compared to creating virgin PET fibre, recycled fibre eliminates the use of new petroleum and conserves water and energy, which makes the entire fibre creation process more resourceful. Repreve has UTrust verification, and with every product made with Repreve, the label can state how many plastic bottles were diverted from landfill by recycling into the new fibre.
Evernu is a textile innovations company that exclusively works with discarded textiles. With 92 million tons of textile waste being created annually, Evernu works to tackle this alarming number with the help of new technology to create innovative solutions. Their mission statement is to continue the fashion cycle by seeing waste as a resource to maximise the potential of world’s existing resources. The company engineered a fibre called NuCycl made from the discarded clothing and textiles. The process involves 5 steps:
- Gather: Discarded textiles are collected to be sorted and separated
- Purify: The garments are disassembled and broken down to their basic molecular level
- Fibre: The raw materials are created into a new fibre lints
- Yarn: The new engineered fibre is then spun into a yarn
- Fabric: The new fabrics are then ready to be sent to mills to be used as a wearable textile for brands
Evernu hopes that NuCycl products will continuously be returned into the Nucycle system instead of being discarded so that the cycle will endlessly continue.
We dissolve cotton and viscose and turn them into re:newcell pulp – a pure, natural, biodegradable raw material for the fashion industry. It’s an efficient process that reuses chemicals, and it’s up and running in our first plant in Kristinehamn, Sweden.
Historically there have been significant issues with recycling natural fibres like cotton and viscose due to upscaling problems or unsatisfactory quality. Re:newcell has been working to find solutions to this issue and has created a technology that closes the loop of natural fibres that would otherwise be discarded to landfill. The recycling technology dissolves the fibres into a ciculose pulp that is biodegradable. From here it can be put through a spinneret to create a yarn out of the filaments, and then be turned back into a new textile fibre and re-enter the textile production cycle without a loss of virgin quality.
Aquafil is a leading textile plant that recycles both post industrial and post consumer plastic-based waste by turning it into a their own recycled nylon known as Nylon 6 that is used for apparel, accessories and carpets. Through different processing ventures over its 40 year lifespan, CEO Giulio Bonazz realised that they could employ a reverse supply chain in their processing plants. The plants were able to optimise all plastic waste to substitute virgin materials from nylon 6 to fishing nets to discarded apparel. From here, the first Econyl Reclaim Plant opened in 2011. Econyl regenerates the waste materials that are fed into the system while maintaining, if not improving, the quality of the product. Econyl accounts for 40% of all of Aquafil’s fibre sales. Aquafil aims to be waste positive by creating high-quality yarns that can be reused and recycled endlessly.
Historically mechanical recycling plants have faced issues with separating material blends, dyes and contaminants. Worn Again, which was founded in London in 2005, has found solutions to separate, decontaminate and extract polymers and cellulose from cotton and polyester, both monofibres and blended fibres. With special technology, it is now possible to collect end-of-life textiles, PET bottles and packaging and recycle these materials into new raw textiles to close the loop. The innovative technology has the capability of reprocessing both pure and blended cotton and polyester textiles which represent 80% of all clothing and textiles globally. Worn Again is preparing for the opening of its first industrial demonstration plant in 2021, having recently reached its £5 million target.
Mango Materials have founded an economically competitive naturally occurring biopolymer from waste biogas (methane). It is hoped that this new biopolymer can replace conventional virgin petroleum-based plastics. The technology employed at Mango Materials also enables the regeneration of new apparel without any reduction in quality. The biopolymer can be spun into a new fibre like conventional PET plastic and be used for the same applications, however with the added bonus of being a fully biodegradable biopolyester.
Another application that Mango Materials focuses on is plastic bottle caps. Plastic caps are typically made of recycled plastic, however an estimated 250 billion plastic caps are produced each year, with a large majority ending up in landfills as they are too small for recyclers to register. Conventional plastic bottle caps can be replaced with the natural biopolymer that is able to biodegrade in both industrial and natural environments safely
Aly is a footwear and accessories designer with a particular interest in sustainable and ethical fashion. She graduated as valedictorian graduate from London College of Fashion with a specialised focus on disassembly and circularity within footwear design. Aly has experience working with both leathers and non-leathers and works closely with factories in Europe. Since graduating she has worked for Stella McCartney, Two Degrees, McQ Alexander McQueen and Ganni.
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