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Revolutionizing Textile Recycling: Turning Old Cotton into New Viscose

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In a groundbreaking leap towards sustainable textile production, researchers from Lund University in Sweden have pioneered a method to transform worn-out cotton sheets into brand-new viscose fibers. This innovative process not only presents a viable solution to the textile waste problem but also marks a significant step towards reducing the environmental footprint of the fashion industry.

Traditionally, viscose—a material often likened to artificial silk—is derived from cellulose found in wood. However, the environmental cost of sourcing raw materials from forests, coupled with the energy, water, and land required to cultivate cotton, has propelled the search for more sustainable alternatives. Enter the team led by doctoral student Edvin Bågenholm-Ruuth, who has successfully navigated the complex challenges associated with recycling cotton textiles.

Cotton's resilience, stemming from its long cellulose chains and the myriad of chemicals used in its processing, has long made it a tough candidate for recycling. Yet, by employing a relatively simple salt, zinc chloride, the researchers have managed to break down these barriers. Their technique dissolves old textiles into a viscous solution, which can then be spun into high-quality viscose fibers, requiring a lower concentration of carbon disulphide—a toxic substance traditionally used in viscose production.

The innovation emerging from Lund University serves as a beacon of hope for sustainable fashion, providing a practical solution to one of the industry's most pressing challenges. By closing the loop on textile waste, this method not only preserves natural resources but also opens the door to a new era of eco-conscious material production. As we look towards a future where recycling becomes the norm, this pioneering work underscores the importance of ingenuity and persistence in our collective journey towards sustainability.

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