Successful Recycling of Polyester Textiles

World-first Breakthrough in Textile Recycling Unveiled: New technology is a game changer

Polyester textiles have been successfully recycled back into raw material as part of a joint venture between the UK’s largest charity textile collector and a leading corporate wear producer.

Project Re:claim is a joint venture between corporate wear specialists Project Plan B and Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL), the trading arm of the charity, and has unveiled plans for the first commercial-scale, post-consumer polyester recycling plant.

Project Plan B developed the exclusive polyester recycling system which is based on plastic bottle recycling. The Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL) will install the machine at one of their Processing Centres which already sorts and processes around 65,000 tonnes of donated textiles every year.

Tim Cross, CEO at Project Plan B, said: “We need a seismic change in how garments are designed and produced. Polyester textile recycling is one of the biggest opportunities to reduce the harmful impact of producing garments and this new technology is the first proven commercial scale system that has been designed to cope with the challenges of recycling post-consumer clothing.”

This new plant will recycle around 2,500 tonnes in its first year, rising to 5,000 tonnes in year 2, and aims to recycle polyester that has come to the end of its useful life. The technology creates polyester pellets and has successfully produced the first yarn from these.  

Majonne Frost, Head of Environment & Sustainability at SATCoL, said: “Last year SATCoLenabled reuse and recycling of over 250 million products but there are always items which are too damaged and we cannot resell and they are often garments made from polyester. With this new technology, we can give these clothes a new lease of life. So when your favourite jumper is worn-out, we will take it and turn it into polyester pellets, ready to be turned back into a new jumper. This is the future of fashion.”

The new technology will be installed at SATCoL’s Processing Centre based in Kettering in September. To maximise the volume and potential of polyester recycling, SATCoL cannot rely on clothing bank donations alone, so are searching for corporate partners to commit to donating 100% polyester textiles now.

Majonne Frost, Head of Environment & Sustainability at SATCoL, continued: “Our vision is to enable companies to produce corporate wear and fashion garments using recycled polyester.  The incredible vision of Project Plan B has brought about the development of the technology, we have the infrastructure to collect donations at scale and we now need companies to step up. This is an opportunity for companies to make a commitment to significantly reduce their environmental impact. In preparation for full production, we are currently seeking 100% polyester textiles such as used hotel linen or post-event promotional banners.”

SATCoL already has the UK’s only automated textile sorting facility, Fibersort. Based at the charity’s purpose-built Processing Centre in Kettering, Fibersort automatically identifies and sorts second-hand textiles by fibre type and is the first step in textile-to-textile recycling. This additional new technology is the next step towards SATCoL’s ambition to create the UK’s first fibre farm, with the aim of massively scaling up textile-to-textile recycling of all types of materials. This presents a huge opportunity for the fashion circular economy.

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