As part of the EU's DEMETO project, NextChem has completed the construction of the first demonstration plant in Italy for the chemical recycling of PET and polyester from textiles. The plant is located in the Abruzzo Technology Park in Chieti.
The factory can chemically recycle PET and polyester textile fiber waste and get pure monomers to make new polymers using the depolymerisation method, which is based on the reaction of alkaline hydrolysis with the use of microwaves.
The EU co-funded the DEMETO project through the Horizon 2020 initiative, with NextChem serving as the coordinator of a consortium of 14 partners encompassing the entire value chain (NextChem, 3V Tech, SPINDOX UK, Technical University of Denmark, The European Outdoor Group, EuPC, The Fricke and Mallah GmbH, gr3n, H&M Group, NEOGROUP, RECUPRENDA, PETCIA, SUPSI, Synesis).
NextChem is the designer and builder of the facility, as well as the developer and co-licensor of the depolymerisation technology, which is held by the Swiss start-up gr3n.
The plant will test a variety of materials, including polyester-based textile fibers, and is capable of recycling nearly 100% of the incoming material, totaling 1 million kg per year.
An Industrial Advisory Board has backed the project, which comprises corporations including Unilever, Coca-Cola, Oviesse, Danone, Henkel, and others.
This approach could help tackle some of the still-unsolved issues in textile waste recycling, such as mixed fibers. In Italy alone, tracked textile waste totaled almost 157 000 t in 2019, with single and mixed synthetic fibers accounting for 47% of the total.
Textiles make up 5.7 percent of unsorted garbage in Italy, with a total estimated at 663 000 tpy. Each European uses 26 kilogram of textile material each year and discards 11 kg, resulting in a total textile waste generation of roughly 5 million tpy.
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