Innovation That Matters

The viscose filament yarn made from recycled cotton | Photo source © Fraunhofer IAP

In a major breakthrough, recycled cotton becomes truly renewable

Fashion & Beauty

A team of researchers has developed a new method to convert old cotton clothing into a fibre suitable for mass manufacturing


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Spotted: Cotton clothing is notoriously difficult to recycle, as most of the time it is made of blended fabric, which includes polyester or elastane. A team of scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research has been working with Swedish company re:newcell to find a solution for this obstacle, investigating eco-friendly starter materials. They have developed a technique that returns recycled cotton into viscose rayon fibre, which is suitable for mass manufacturing.

Re:newcell sent the Fraunhofer team cellulose sheets made of recycled cotton to try to convert it into viscose rayon fibres. It was no easy task, as the viscose process is complex. By setting the right parameters for both the dissolving and spinning processes, the team were successful in extracting the foreign fibres from the pulp. From this, they were then able to produce a yarn that measured several kilometres long and was made from 100 per cent cellulose. The fact that the fibre is now made of pure cellulose means that it is environmentally friendly, as cellulose disintegrates and does not contribute to the plastic waste problem.   

According to the team, this new method is compatible with standard procedures for producing viscose rayon and it should be easily integrated into these processes.

Written By: Serafina Basciano

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