The research team at the University of York, Leeds, Manchester, Cranfield, Cambridge and University College London have come together to work on a £5.4m project with the Royal College of Art, that aims to reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry in the UK.
UK is responsible for sending one million tonnes of textile waste to incineration and landfill every single year. The emissions from the industry are almost as high as the total of CO2 emitted through people using cars.
The fashion sector alone is worth £32bn annually to the UK economy, but most clothing and almost all textile and yarn are imported.
With the aim to reduce the environmental impact the localise the supply chain, the team will utilise household waste, crop residues and used textiles to develop new products that can be scaled and produced in the UK.
To achieve this very goal the research team will utilise technology that uses enzymes to deconstruct materials containing cellulose, such as natural and semi-synthetic fibres, crop residues and solid waste products. The enzymes help breakdown the materials into simple sugars, which can then be converted back into new cellulose by bacteria.
The new cellulose is then spun into fibres which can be woven to produce high-quality textiles to supply the UK’s fashion and clothing sector.
Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, from the University of York’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), stated that the apparel and fashion sector is currently one of the most polluting, responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 20% of global wastewater. He added that their approach would significantly reduce the carbon emissions and wastewater from textile production. He stated that this would create a more secure domestic supply chain, stimulating economic growth in the UK, while reducing waste.
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