British innovation has developed a process that will enable the fashion and clothing industry to become more sustainable and profitable. The lack of effective disassembly technologies and absence of design protocols for the handling of clothing at the end of its life have, until now, acted as barriers to a profitable, sustainable clothing operation.
The newly-developed wear2™ technology meets this challenge; it is compatible with current manufacturing equipment, and provides the apparel sector with an opportunity to both enhance its competitiveness and reduce its environmental and societal burdens.
Incorporating wear2™ into clothing items enables zips, buttons, fastenings, linings and other "contras" that currently contaminate recycled fibre to be easily removed prior to garment recycling. Indeed, the whole garment can be engineered to literally fall apart into its component parts. This does not affect the durability of the garments though - they remain fully robust before the disassembly treatment is applied.
One of the more exciting possibilities that wear2™ allows, is the ability to subsequently recover pure fibre from these disassembled garments.
This opens the door for the clothing industry to re-use material to supplement or replace virgin fibre in new garments, thereby saving raw material costs, easing potential supply constraints and reducing environmental impact in a virtuous closed loop system. It makes sustainability profitable!
In addition, wear2™ allows the re-use or repurposing of garments. For example, the corporate clothing sector can now remove “tax” tags and logos easily and inexpensively, thus eliminating the security concerns page 2 ref: w2e 23 Oct 2012
associated with the disposal of their used garments. Instead of shredding, landfill or incineration, corporate-branded garments can now be de-branded for re-use, and unused items can be rebranded.
The technology is the result of a three year collaboration by a consortium of British companies, supported by the Technology Strategy Board; the ‘SUSCORP project’ successfully developed a new patent-protected process capable of selectively separating seams in textiles without damaging the surrounding fabric.
The potential benefits of wear2™ from both an economic and environmental standpoint are large:
• Presently, in the UK alone, approximately 1 million tonnes of clothing is landfilled every year.
• By adopting the wear2™ process, over 60% of this total could potentially be re-processed into new products, thus creating a new profit centre
• Annual CO2 emissions reduction of at least 800,000 tonnes CO2e
• Markedly improves resource management with substantial savings in water and energy consumption
The capability to disassemble garments cost-effectively will encourage the specification of more suitable fabrics and fibres based on the future extendable life cycle of the garments. Markets for single material/fabric clothing ranges can then develop with the confidence that sufficient future feedstock will exist to ensure continuity of supply.