Recycling blended cotton and polyester fabric for the circular economy in textiles
Fabric waste containing polyester and cotton, widely used in the textile industry, is often incinerated or landfilled at the end of its useful life because it is a multi-material, which makes it difficult to separate and recycle using conventional methods. AIMPLAS is participating in the RECIMAP Project, which aims to find new approaches to the problem of complex plastic waste such as blended cotton and polyester fabric and promote a sustainable circular economy in the industry.
The company Bespoke Factory Group is leading this research project, funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI), with participation from AIMPLAS, the Universitat de València, and the Consorcio Valencia Interior V3.
Belén Taroncher, a researcher in the Chemical Recycling Group at AIMPLAS, stated, “The RECIMAP Project makes a significant contribution to the circular economy, especially considering the increasing amount of textile waste expected in the coming years, partially due to European regulations on extended producer responsibility (EPR). This underscores the need to find effective solutions for this waste and provide opportunities for Valencian companies to improve their competitiveness”.
In particular, research is being done on an innovative recycling pathway that transforms this complex waste into high-quality recycled materials and lactic acid, an essential component for the production of polylactic acid (PLA). RECIMAP focuses on selective separation of cotton and polyester blends through the synthesis and use of ionic liquids, offering a more environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional solvents. The polyester fraction is recycled using mechanochemical techniques to obtain recycled polyester, while the cotton fraction is used in the production of lactic acid through a lactic acid fermentation process.
“The RECIMAP Project represents a significant technical and business innovation by taking a new recycling approach that recovers complex textile waste while generating high-quality recycled materials with significant economic value. This includes recycled polyester, which has a lower carbon footprint than virgin polyester, and lactic acid, an essential component for PLA production”, said Taroncher, the principal investigator of the project at AIMPLAS.
The research project is funded by the Valencian Community government through the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI), with co-financing from the European Union’s ERDF Valencian Community Programme 2021-2027 within the call for Strategic Projects in Cooperation 2022.