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HONG KONG – An Indonesian textile plant is close to creating new fibres from olds ones at a price comparable to virgin fibres with the help of the recycling technology of the ‘Green Machine’. In the latest issue of Apparel Insider, we caught up with Edward Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA).

The Green Machine uses a hydrothermal process to separate cotton and polyester blends. This means the process uses just heat and pressure, so that the fibres are not damaged and – in theory – the performance remains similar post-recycling.

Keh told us an industrial version of the ‘Green Machine’ will be up and running at the Indonesian textile plant of PT Kahatex by April (it had been delayed due to Covid, as reported in our previous issue).

The plant will see PT Kahatex using waste (fibres, yarn and fabric) from manufacturing as feedstock to create new yarns and fibres which can be used to produce garments.

The key to the facility, Keh explains, is that there is a short ROI. “The surcharge is incremental – we are talking pennies on a T-shirt or a sweatshirt,” says Keh. “It is producing one and a half to two tonnes per day. If we can get this up to five or ten tonnes per day, it will be performance and price comparable with virgin. Ultimately we want to see if we can make it cheaper than virgin.”

HKRITA is already negotiating a second, similar plant in Cambodia. “If we can make a good business case of this, all these large manufacturers have scraps they are currently not dealing with in a cost-effective way,” he say.

At the moment, it would seem this kind of approach could be made to work in the industrial use phrase but, as Keh points out, “post-consumer is harder.”

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