[PUBLICATION] Scientists at Lund University have found a new chemical recycling route for cotton textile waste – MDPI


The fashion industry is becoming one of the largest emitters worldwide due to its high consumption of raw materials, its effluents, and the fact that every garment will eventually contribute to the vast amount of waste being incinerated or accumulating in landfills. Although fiber-to-fiber recycling processes are being developed, the mechanical properties of the textile fibers are typically degraded with each such recycle. Thus, tertiary recycling alternatives where textiles are depolymerized to convert them into valuable products are needed to provide end-of-life alternatives and to achieve circularity in the fashion industry. We have developed a method whereby cotton waste textiles are depolymerized to form a glucose solution, using sulfuric acid as the sole catalyst, with a high yield (>70%). The glucose solution produced in this process has a high concentration (>100 g/L), which reduces the purification cost and makes the process industrially relevant. This method can be applied regardless of the quality of the fibers and could therefore process other cellulosic fibers such as viscose. The glucose produced could subsequently be fermented into butanediol or caprolactam, precursors for the production of synthetic textile fibers, thus retaining the value of the waste textiles within the textile value chain.

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