Recycled cotton fibres is turned into viscose-like fabric

While cotton fabric is a biobased and biodegradable material, growing the plant takes up a lot of land, water, and if not organically produced, pesticides. Simply throwing the material away is therefore a waste. Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have found a new way to turn discarded cotton fibres into a new material that “feels half way between cotton and viscose“.

The new material is made by dissolving worn and discarded cotton. The method the researchers use is much friendlier to the environment than the viscose process, in which carbon disulphide is needed for dissolution. In addition, polyester residues are removed from the cotton material using methods familiar from the pulp industry.

The carbon footprint of recycled fibre produced is about a third smaller than for cotton and in the same category as the most environmentally friendly viscose. The water footprint of the recycled fibre is around 2 per cent of that of virgin cotton and 10 per cent of viscose.

The fibres were spun into a yarn, with characteristics that rival commercial yarn. Knitwear company Agtuvi used the material to produce gloves and flat-knitted fabrics. According to the researchers, the fabric is “smooth with a subdued matt finish and drapes nicely.”

Photos: VTT