Recyclability of Man-made Fibers: Challenges and Solutions

It’s no secret that textiles are the second-worst polluters on the planet. A garment’s average lifespan is about three years. More textiles are being discarded at the end of their useful lives, and the frightening contamination of landfills is increasing year after year. 

When materials are disposed of, they attempt to break down; some succeed, while others end up as toxic deposits that have not been destroyed. When a fiber is 100 percent natural, it may degrade in a few years, but as the world’s population grows, so does the need for clothes, which is predicted to reach 99 million tonnes per year and cannot be satisfied entirely by natural fibers.

There is also a challenge from the industrial sewing machines as the remaining fabric from the machine if not properly disposed of by the staff then it also acts as a pollutant and ends up as a toxic deposit against nature.

Here are some recycling processes, one can use for the proper disposal of industrial fabrics

  • Mechanical recycling – The method of repurposing textile fabric into fibers without using any chemicals. This procedure involves shredding and carding the cloth to extract the fibers, which can subsequently be spun into yarn for woven or knitted fabrics. Textiles made of natural or synthetic fibers that have been stripped down to individual fibers are the input material for this recycling. The fibers stay intact during this process, but their length is reduced due to tearing and mechanical damage.
  • Regranulation (Thermo-mechanical recycling process) – Instead of being turned into fibers, textiles are shredded, melted, and then re-granulated! The input material for this method is synthetic, material-homogenous textiles, and recyclers are encouraged to use impurity-free textiles if at all possible. As a result, the output material is contaminated with fiber pellets.
  • Solvent-based preparation – It is a method of separating desirable textile materials using a solvent. The mixed material flow of synthetic/natural fibers, depending on solvent and polymer, is the input material. The textile waste is turned into RePAN-pellets, which are spun into staple fibers. Waste streams of polymers can be collected and purified using this method of recycling, resulting in properties that are comparable to those of virgin plastics.
  • Chemical recycling – It is the procedure that is utilized to produce virgin-quality polymers. Polymers are disassembled into oligomers or monomers, which can then be reassembled into a polymer. The output products are frequently of the same quality as their virgin counterparts, with no physical qualities lost as a result of the recycling process. When it comes to technology, this is far superior to mechanical recycling due to the use of chemicals, enzymes, a controlled environment, and so on. It also has the added benefit of having fewer limitations in the form of fabric such as woven and knits, which cater to a wide range of products such as jackets, auto-parts, home decors, and so on.

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