Separation and recycling of fast fashion fibres

excavator crushes trash

Separation of cotton/polyester and wool/polyester blends

excavator crushes trash
An excavator crushes trash at the Anchorage Landfill, Aug. 21. The landfill provides the methane that powers the newly constructed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Landfill Gas Plant. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Globally, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles go to landfill each year. This issue has been a blind spot in recycling and sustainability conversations, however textile waste has great potential to be transformed into a valuable commodity.

Only a small fraction of textile products from the fashion industry are collected and reused or recycled. The problem is exacerbated by the mixture of different natural and synthetic fibres in blended textiles, which makes effective recycling difficult.

In 2018, the clean technology company BlockTexx began working with QUT researchers to create a process that separates the cotton and polyester commonly found in many items of clothing.

This proprietary resource recovery technology, S.O.F.T.™ (separation of fibre technology), enables BlockTexx to manufacture high-quality raw materials from waste for reuse in many industries.

QUT researchers Professor Robert Speight, Dr Jan Zhang and Professor Ian O’Hara developed the process in collaboration with BlockTexx founders Adrian Jones and Graham Ross.

The process grew out of an Institute for Future Environments-funded Catapult project, which successfully separated polyester and wool. This project was led by Professor Speight, and included Dr Laura Navone, who brought expertise in enzymatic hair degradation; Associate Professor James Blinco, who specialises in polymer chemistry; and Associate Professor Alice Payne, who focuses on promoting the circular economy in fashion through finding new value for textile waste.

Read more here.

Chief Investigators

Other Team Members

  • Prof Ian O'Hara
  • A/Prof James Blinco
  • Thuy Nguyen (CEA)
  • Michelle Gane (K2I Broker)