A 12-month study on a cotton farm located outside the rural town of Goondiwindi, Queensland, Australia, showed that huge volumes of end-of-life cotton textile waste may be diverted from landfill with no negative impact on soil health or cotton yields.
Returning shredded cotton products to cotton fields, project collaborators believe, with a sound business model and additional study, might soon bring advantages to soil health and a scalable solution to the large worldwide problem of textile waste.
Cotton industry-supported soil scientist, Dr. Oliver Knox, said that at the very least, the trial demonstrated that no harm was done to soil health, with microbial activity somewhat enhanced and at least 2,070 kg of CO2e reduced by the breakdown of these clothes in soil rather than landfill. The trial diverted around two tonnes of textile waste from garbage while having no adverse effect on cotton planting, emergence, growth, or harvest. Soil carbon levels were steady, while soil bugs responded well to the addition of cotton fiber. There also looked to be no negative effects from dyes and finishes, though additional research on a broader variety of chemicals is needed to be certain.
The project was a collaboration between the Queensland Government, Goondiwindi Cotton, Sheridan, Cotton Australia, Worn Up, and Cotton Research and Development Corporation, with soil scientist Dr Oliver Knox of UNE assisting. Two tonnes of end-of-life cotton textiles from Sheridan and State Emergency Service coveralls were processed at Worn Up in Sydney, transported to 'Alcheringa' farm, and put over a cotton field by Sam Coulton, a local farmer.
With a number of ideas currently on the table, the project team will now focus on how to effectively collaborate on the way ahead. The Cotton Research and Development Corporation has committed to sponsoring a three-year cotton textile composting research project at the University of Newcastle, which will look at ways to pelletize cotton textiles so they may be distributed on fields using existing farms gear. Sam Coulton and his colleagues are eager to establish a business case, acquire a shredder, and maybe give a model for employment in regional cotton communities.
The trial will also be expanded to a second farm in Gunnedah, NSW, called 'Kensal Green,' which is owned by cotton producer Scott Morgan. Sheridan has agreed to provide more end-of-life cotton textiles and offcuts for the study in 2022-23, together with parent company Hanes Australasia.
Local farmer and Goondiwindi Cotton owner, Sam Coulton, said that they’re impressed by the project's first findings and outcomes and look forward to expanding the experiment over the following 12 months. In this day and age, they should be a part of the solution to reintroduce cotton into the system. They cultivate it here, and they should be able to bury it here with a beneficial environmental and economic impact on the local community.
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