Researchers at Leeds Institute of Textiles and Colour (LITAC) have won a share of the Circular Future Fund, an initiative run by John Lewis Partnership in collaboration with environmental charity Hubbub to award projects working towards a circular economy.
Leeds' researchers, in collaboration with the Wolfson CO2 Laboratory in the School of Chemistry, are currently working on a new technology that will enable easier recycling of polyester by deploying carbon dioxide and separating dyes from the fibre.
The Circular Future Fund will donate a share of its one million pounds to the project at LITAC and support it for the year after the institute beat more than 240 projects. The brief for the competition was that the project had to circulate products and materials, eliminate waste and pollution, and regenerate nature.
Chris Rayner, professor of organic chemistry, said in a statement: "Sustainable dyeing and dyeing removal processes represent a crucial missing link in existing recycling infrastructure. This award from the Circular Future Fund will greatly help us in our mission to create a viable economic route for recycling polyester."
Richard Blackburn, professor of sustainable materials in the School of Design, added: "Polyester is the global clothing industry's most consumed fibre, yet fibre-to-fibre recycling for the material is unfeasible because of the chemicals involved in the dyeing process.
"In order to meet the UN's Sustainable Development Goal of recycling 90 percent of PET plastic by 2030, chemical recycling – and specifically fibre-to-fibre recycling – is essential."
Three other projects also were awarded a share of the fund, including the following: expandable and recyclable children's shoes, a menstrual cup use and a scheme for lending and mending household items and clothing in Scottish libraries.