Textile Waste Recycling by Biological Method

Textile waste has recently become a widespread concern around the world. Population growth and fast fashion development result in a high level of textile consumption and waste generation. In UK and US, an estimate of 1.0 and 12.4 million tonnes of textile waste were annually produced respectively. In Hong Kong, approximately 0.8 million tonnes of textile waste is generated every year. Massive textile waste develops various negative impacts on environment. Currently, textile waste is mainly disposed in landfills. But the overwhelming landfills force the need for reducing textile waste, among others. The recent development of textile waste recycling technology, such as separating textile waste by a biological method in the HKRITA supported project ITP-109-15TP, provides a silver lining for solving the textile waste problem. The specific objectives of this project are: 1. Design and build a pre-industrial scale system for textile waste recycling by enzymatic hydrolysis with ultrasound pretreatment 2. Investigate the enzymatic hydrolysis performance of the system 3. Prepare PET fibers for spinning as yarns 4. Evaluate the economic aspect of the recycling process

The process consists of three main steps: 1) Modification of textile waste, 2) Enzyme production by fungal cultivation, 3) Enzymatic hydrolysis and 4) product refining. The enzymes efficiently degrade the natural fibre (i.e. cotton) in the textile waste into glucose, leaving the highly pure polyester residues for the subsequent re-spinning process.

Technological Breakthrough

The proposed biorefinery strategies are capable of recycling most textiles such as 100% cotton, 100% polyester, jeans, and cotton-polyester blend textiles. It provides a green technology to enable a closed-loop recycling strategy for the textiles industry by capturing the embodied value of the synthetic fibre. The bio-based products derived from textile waste can replace fossil fuel resources and eventually lead to the establishment of a sustainable and circular economy.

Project Name (ITF)
Textile Waste Recycling by Biological Method (Phase II)
Project Number (ITF)