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Cotton recycling: the chances we have working on man-made cellulosic fibers

«If cotton or other cellulosic fibers can satisfy the 100 million tons of demand, there’s no reason why we can’t use a regenerated natural fiber from beginning to end»

Evrnu’s innovation in fiber production

Recycled polyester decomposes and breaks into micro plastics and microfibers easier and faster than virgin fabrics. Christopher Stanev is confident that Evrnu’s innovation in fiber production has the opportunity to help to reduce the amount of plastics leaching out into the atmosphere. «If cotton or other cellulosic fibers can keep up and satisfy the 100 million tons of demand, there’s no reason why we can’t use a regenerated natural fiber from beginning to end. The only reason that polyester exists today is because natural fibers cannot keep up. We can make our fibers perform as well, if not better, than synthetic fibers, so there will be little need in the future for materials that are at risk of releasing micro plastics into the atmosphere». With textile innovation such as that seen with NuCycl, a shift in the way that we see the need for specific textiles could change.

Evrnu is a Seattle-based textile innovation company working to develop fibers in ways previously considered ‘impossible’. Their regenerative fiber technologies enable che creation of new products from discarded clothing multiple times without losing quality. This helps to counteract the environmental effects of both natural and synthetic fibers by turning a waste product into a new feedstock. Co-founders of Evrnu, Christopher Stanev and Stacy Flynn have been working towards creating a ‘higher level of consciousness’ for both textile producers and their consumers. CEO Stacy wanted to make a change to the textile industry as a reaction to a trip she took to China. «The impact on air and on water was striking; so much so that I could hardly see my colleague when getting out of the car». They wanted to combat the low quantities of recycled materials used in clothing to go above the average 1%.

Lampoon, Evrnu separates the tissue already used up to a molecular level to realign them in a high quality fiber
Evrnu separates the tissue already used up to a molecular level to realign them in a high quality fiber

EU legislation on the separation of textile waste from other waste streams 

When pressed as to where the majority of their waste textiles are sourced from Stacy highlighted the high quantities of waste found in the US. «today, consumers are still disposing of 80% but that volume has increased to around 17 million tons per year». Evrnu relies on garments with a high cotton quantity to produce NuCycl and cotton and polyester make up 90% of the global apparel market.

For Evrnu, they are well placed to remove large quantities of waste from landfill. There have been recent legislative changes which could encourage the shift to a more conscious disposal of waste textiles. New EU legislation will mandate the separation of textile waste from other waste streams by 2050 to accelerate the amount of textiles available to collect; a source that technologies will be able to harness.

The NuCycl technology

Using high-percentage cotton waste materials; the NuCycl technology uses re-polymerization to convert original fiber molecules (from recycled materials) into high performing renewable fibers; allowing the transofrmation of waste into a valuable resource. In order to produce their fiber, Stacy describes how they rely on using 95% cotton materials; sorted mechanically using infrared scanning technology and utilizing pre-existing paper pulping mills to make a pulp from cotton garment waste.

Their focus is on training mills to use their technologies so as to ensure the offering of the innovation. The resulting engineered fiber allows the customization of characteristics; so as to engineer a fiber that is specific, and useful, to the customer. «With a 95% cotton garment, minus trims and impurities, we can end up with 90% pure cellulose. Using pure cotton directly from the field is less efficient in terms of yield; as there is a high quantity of waste left in the field.

Man-made cellulosic fibers use trees which enables a 30-35% yield of cellulose. only have 30 – 35% cellulose inside». The process itself is more efficient than using raw materials; it only requires approximately 1 ton of cotton waste to generate 1 ton of cellulosic pulp. Compared with up to 3 tons of wood required for the same output. 

Producing NuCycl lowers the overall carbon footprint

During the early innovation stages, Stacy discovered that «90% of all the clothes are made from two fibers; polyester and cotton. Both of these require a tremendous amount of natural resources just for the creation. Roughly 2.8 tons of water go into one t-shirt». The full life cycle for 1 kg of polyester is responsible for the release of more than 30kg of carbon dioxide. And 20 kg associated with cotton. These were issues to overcome so NuCycl attempts to combat the main issues in turn.

Producing NuCycl lowers the overall carbon footprint in comparison to producing fibers from virgin materials by diverting textiles from landfill. When clothes end their lives in landfill, they produce large quantities of methane; a more environmentally damaging greenhouse gas than CO2. Each step of production was designed in a cyclical way so as to minimize water waste. Evrnu fibers reduce the impact; they use 98% less water than virgin cotton and can cut CO2 emissions by 90% compared to polyester production.

Textile-to-textile recycling has the opportunity to close the loop in Man-Made cellulosic fiber production. A recent Canopy report forecasted that converting 25% of cotton and rayon textile waste into new dissolving pulp could help to eradicate the need for virgin wood fiber in the production of viscose. The vision for a new man-made cellulosic fiber production system involves regenerating ecosystems; producing with zero harm, enabling circular systems, creating prosperity and upholding rights of the community. 

Evrnu 

Textile innovations company creating a circular ecosystem. Evrnu technologies create engineered fibers with performance and environmental advantages, made from discarded clothing. NuCycl Technologies by Evrnu include: Regenerative Cellulosics, Next generation regenerative Cellulosic solvent systems, Regenerative Polyester, Recoverable Stretch, Bio Engineered Fibers.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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