Taiwan’s Far Eastern New Century (FENC) plans to debut an “all-in-one” chemical-recycling solution for post-consumer polyester-based textiles at the Taipei Innovative Textile Application Show next week, according to Eric Hu, the company’s president.
Known as the FENC TopGreen rTex, the technology will “close the loop of current PET (polyethylene terephthalate) recycling and divert what was once destined for landfills to value-added new consumer goods,” Hu said at a press conference earlier this month.
Certainly the popularity of “fast fashion” hasn’t helped with the mounting problem of textile waste, he noted. The average American, for instance, disposes about 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles every year, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As brands increasingly substitute cheaper synthetics for natural fibers, a growing swath of binned garments consist of polyester and polyester blends.
FENC says its solution will help recycle polyester from all types of textiles, including mixed streams that have presented challenges to recyclers in the past. (Alloyed fibers can be a pain to distill into their original constituents, experts say.)
The technique employs a two-prong approach that involves dissolving polyester fibers using chemicals, then filtering out any mixed polymers or dyestuffs. Any cellulose that is isolated can be converted into energy-dense fuel rods for generating electricity, Hu said.
FENC, which is poised to become the world’s third-largest PET producer, has been expanding its reach in the United States and Vietnam of late. It owns a PET plant in West Virginia, a research-and-development center in Ohio and is currently constructing a plant in Corpus Christi, Texas, where the company says it can churn out 1.1 million metric tons of PET each year.
The firm says it’s also taking advantage of Vietnam’s favorable labor and investment climate by developing a new PET production line in the southeast Asian nation. The facility will become operational next quarter with an annual capacity of 400,000 metric tons, according to FENC.
FENC supplies polyester-related materials to some of the world’s leading brands, including Adidas, which has praised it for its work in turning reclaimed ocean plastic from Parley for the Oceans into high-performance yarns for apparel and footwear.