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Upcycling clothes possible – and they are even better than before

Many people like to buy new clothes frequently - a habit that could ruin the environment. Now researchers have found a way to upcycle used 'fast fashion'.

Upcycling fast fashion

In modern textiles, the materials are mixed. For example, cotton is mixed with polyester to make the textile stretch and fit the customer better. This is a huge challenge for the part of the textile industry that wants to upcycle old textile.

“People don’t want to spend much money on textiles anymore, but poor-quality garments don’t last,” researcher Simone Haslinger explains at the 253rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). “A small amount might be recycled as cleaning rags, but the rest ends up in landfills, where it degrades and releases carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. Also, there isn’t much arable land anymore for cotton fields, as we also have to produce food for a growing population.”

Now a research team has found a way to extract the cotton out of the polyester. Herbert Sixta, Ph.D., Aalto University, has proved to make a fibre from the resulting cellulose fluid. Later testing showed that these fibres are stronger than commercially available viscose and feel similar to lyocell.

“We can handle the science, but we might not know what dye was used, for example, because it’s not labeled,” he says. “You can’t just feed all the material into the same process. Industry and policymakers have to work on the logistics. With all the rubbish piling up, it is in everyone’s best interest to find a solution.”

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