EXCLUSIVE – Pure textile-textile recycling via chemical process is viewed by many as the panacea for the global apparel industry. However, the costs involved continue to be a challenge as such processes generally require the use of ionic liquids—salts in a liquid state —to dissolve cotton textiles into their cellulose building blocks. These solvents are expensive and are also said to be difficult to work with due to their high viscosity.
However, a US research team has developed a new recycling method which uses a high concentration of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as a co-solvent which allowed the researchers to use far less ionic liquid than previous methods. Remarkably, solvent costs were slashed by 77 per cent during a denim recycling process. The researchers also showed that by using their newly developed process, the fibre can be spun in such a way which maintains the original colour of the waste garment. This meant the regenerated fibres did not need to be re-dyed, saving the large amounts of water and energy typically required in the traditional textile dyeing processes.