Textile Waste Recycling by Biological Method

In Hong Kong, there are around 217 tons of textile waste generated daily, this accounts for 1.6% of total municipal solid waste (MSW). Fifty-two percent (52%) of the MSW generated is dumped into landfills. It is estimated that by 2020, all the current landfill sites in Hong Kong will be exhausted. Exploiting textile waste generated by the clothing and textile industry for chemical and material production could create integrated, sustainable and bio-based processes. In this project, we aim to conduct the feasibility studies of textile waste recycling by biological method. We intend to recover fermentable glucose and polyester (PET) fibre from textile waste via bioprocessing. This will contribute to a novel approach of textile waste treatment, especially the pretreatment and the enzymatic hydrolysis process. In addition, the feasibility of re-spin PET fiber recovered from the textile waste will be conducted.

Application

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.

Awards
46th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva (2018) - Gold Medal
Project Name (ITF)
Textile Waste Recycling by Biological Method
Project Number (ITF)
ITP/109/15TP