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New study finds way to recycle blended cotton and polyester fabrics using enzymes


Researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered a way to use enzymes to separate blended cotton and polyester fabrics, according to a new study.

The team hopes that this method will lead to a more efficient way of recycling these component materials, which will ultimately reduce textile waste. The study found that the process works well in separating cotton from polyester blends, which typically cannot be recycled. However, if the blended fabric is dyed or treated with chemicals that increase wrinkle resistance, additional steps are required.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that consumers discard around 11 million tons of textile waste in landfills each year, making this an important development. The researchers used a cocktail of enzymes in a mildly acidic solution to break down cotton's cellulose material. This then separates the cotton fragments from the polyester, which can be recycled.

While more work needs to be done, the researchers believe that this method has great promise, particularly as it is a mild process that uses enzymes that ignore the polyester. The researchers are also investigating the potential use of the slurry of cotton fragments and glucose as an additive for paper or composite materials, or for biofuel production.


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