Every year, tons of old textiles that cannot be reused or sold end up in incineration plants or even go to landfill. The textile industry is growing, and the proportion of multi-material textiles, i.e., mixtures of various natural and artificial fibers, is steadily increasing. Society and lawmakers rightly demand rapid technological solutions for the recycling of this kind of waste in order to protect the environment and save material resources. Besides closing the loop from raw material to raw material, the project aims at efficient recycling that yields an end product with virgin-like characteristics.
The project TEX2MAT addresses the recycling of different kinds of old textiles that consist of a mixture of polyester and cotton. The first step is the enzymatic separation of polyester and cotton in a procedure developed by the Viennese University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences; after appropriate reprocessing, the materials are reused in new products. The input material is supplied by the companies Herka Frottier, Salesianer Miettex and Huyck.Wangner Austria (Xerium Group), which are all located in Lower Austria. Starlinger recycling technology - a business unit of Starlinger which manufactures recycling lines and has already developed solutions for closed loop production in the field of polyester textiles - provides recycling services and expertise for the project. To achieve an optimal result, regular controls of the material properties are performed by the University of Leoben.
The project partners are working on specific case studies:
- Mixtures of polyester and cotton from the production of towels as well as old textiles in the form of bed linens and working clothes are shredded by Starlinger recycling technology and then undergo enzymatic treatment at the Technical University of Vienna. The goal is to develop a sample process for closed loop production.
- Technical nonwovens made of polyamides are shredded and turned into regranulate by Starlinger recycling technology; Thermoplastkreislauf GmbH then adds substances such as glass fibers, additives and/or colors as needed (a process commonly known as compounding). The companies Multiplast Kunststoffverarbeitung and Fildan use this customized material in the production of highly technical plastic parts such as components for fire extinguishers or bra fasteners.
The project TEX2MAT started in November 2017 and will be running over the course of two years. The project partners meet in regular intervals to align the individual steps and discuss the overall progress. In September 2018, TEX2MAT will be presented at the international fiber congress GFC in Dornbirn; initial results are expected to become available until K show 2019 in Düsseldorf.