Organisations invited to commit used workwear for groundbreaking polyester recycling

A joint venture between corporate wear specialists Project Plan B and charitable clothing collection Salvation Army could hold the key to a more sustainable future for the industry.

The two organisations formed Project Re:Claim with a view to trying to bring down wast from the textiles sector, and have now announced plans for the first ever commercial scale, post-consumer polyester recycling plant. 

Using an exclusive system developed by the venture, based on plastic bottle recycling, a single machine will soon be installed at a Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL) processing centre, which in the UK average out around 65,000 tonnes of donating clothing each year. 

Once online, the system will be able to recycle 2,500 tonnes of that in its first year, rising to 5,000 tonnes in year two. Every tonne of new polyester created causes 20 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, pointing to a huge carbon saving, and currently no post-consumer polyester textiles are being recycled, despite the material being considered a finite fossil resource.

It is hoped the new plant will help demonstrate new market potential for  recycled polyester. However, SATCol  has confirmed it cannot rely on clothes bank donations to meet the system’s capacity, and is now seeking partner organisations to commit to donating used workwear textiles, too. On average, these items of clothing have a lifespan of around two years, emphasising the urgency of increasing reuse rates. 

‘Last year SATCoL enabled 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,’ said Majonne Frost, Head of Environment & Sustainability at SATCoL. 

‘Our vision is to enable companies to produce corporate wear and fashion garments using recycled polyester,’ she continued. ‘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.’

The global fashion industry is a major contributor to the climate crisis, and currently just 12% of clothing materials across the world are recycled. This falls to 1% in the UK. Earlier this year, Environment Journal reported on the significant emissions output and water consumption of the sector. Every minute, the industry produces more CO2 than a car would circumnavigating the globe six times, with up to 2,700litres of water used to produce a single t-shirt. 

More on fashion and the environment:

Fashion industry’s stark environmental impact stitched up in new report

37 million items of clothing dumped in Kenya each year

Can data help fashion slash overproduction and reduce emissions?

Feature: The Circular Economy is not a hard sell



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