New life for recycled textiles

Waste is ubiquitous in our everyday lives. As part of local, national and global communities we have a responsibility to be ethical global citizens and attempt to minimise our consumption of products that produce waste, and to regulate our disposal of waste. Although waste is an inextricably-linked by-product of human existence, of commerce, public policy, food and fashion, Broadspectrum strives to collaborate with government, business and community to manage waste in an intelligent manner.

When managed as an asset, waste becomes a resource-for-recovery, not a liability-for-the-grave, and a product which can be re-purposed and re-fashioned. Textiles are omnipresent in municipal waste in Australia, resulting in an abundance of materials from fast-fashion, synthetic fibres to cushion inserts – ending up in landfill.

With a disciplined, scientific approach and a focus on the Circular Economy – where waste is re-used as many times as feasibly possible instead of ending up in a landfill - Ferrovial Services trialled a project that can work in any region, to increase the rate of reusing textiles recovered from municipal waste.

Our pilot started in the most logical location – municipalities with citizens who live, breathe and work in the area. The volume and type of textiles were quantified, and the differing compositions were identified, then the design and validation of a mechanical process for the optimisation of textile recovery was implemented.

After the quantity and composition of textiles were assessed, our technology identified the demand for the recovered textile and of products manufactured from each textile. Textiles can either enter the up-cycle, where the textile is reintroduced in the production cycle of fibres or recovered yarns of high quality, or down-cycle, where the recovered textile waste is used by manufacturers of new products, such as non-woven materials, fibres or felts.

The textile technical requirements associated with each of the market applications (organoleptic characteristics, insulation level, reaction to fire, etc.) were established, then the textiles underwent a technical sanitation process, taking into account the origin of the material.

To complete the 360 degree of our Circular Economy approach, our final step in the pilot resulted in the design of a treatment and recycling line to support various sanitisation and material sorting processes.

This pilot contributed to the increase of waste recovery rates through the reintroduction of materials that would otherwise been destined for the landfill – the grave. Due to its success, Ferrovial Services will continue to explore further trials and implementation.