Plastic’s versatility is pretty fantastic. Its tendency to linger forever, however? Markedly less so.
That’s why a new joint venture wants bring to market a technology that allows polyester and other synthetic fibers to biodegrade in wastewater, seawater and landfill conditions, just like their natural counterparts.
Intrinsic Advanced Materials, a collaboration between Intrinsic Textiles Group and Parkdale Advanced Materials, the fiber innovation arm of Parkdale Mills, will work to scale up the former’s patent-pending CiClo system in a bid to reduce both microfiber pollution during washing and plastic accumulation in landfills.
Microplastics in oceans have become a hot-button concern of late. Stemming in part from the tiny plastic fibers that can slough off synthetic clothing during the laundry cycle, these minuscule fragments have managed to infiltrate our food chains, drinking water and even the wildest reaches of the Antarctic.
Equally fraught for the environment is the issue of synthetic textile waste. Roughly 26 billion pounds of clothing and textiles are deposited in the world’s landfills every year, a healthy proportion of which are made with polyester or polyester blends, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association.
“Considering that greater than 60 percent of the world’s textiles are synthetic materials, over 40 million pounds of synthetic ‘plastic’ textiles are sent to landfill every day in the U.S. alone,” Intrinsic Advanced Materials noted in a press release.
Intrinsic Textiles Group says that CiClo’s “biomimetic process,” which imitates pathways found in the natural world, only activates under prolonged exposure to moisture, high heat and microbes that exist in wastewater treatment plants and anaerobic landfill conditions.
A polyester fabric that’s embedded with CiClo can degrade by 78 percent in 991 days, the company said, versus 4 percent for conventional polyester. Eventually, the end result can serve as “valuable sources” of soil matter and biogas, which can be captured for energy at the sites of their disposal, it added.
“We’re confident that CiClo is the best solution for synthetic microfiber pollution and unrecycled textile waste,” Charles Heilig, president and CEO of Parkdale Textiles Division said in a statement. “The joint venture is a strategic fit, leveraging each company’s strengths and represents Parkdale’s commitment to continual innovation for our customers. We couldn’t be more excited to help bring CiClo to market.”
Andrea Ferris, CEO of the new venture, said that Parkdale’s considerable resources and expertise will allow CiClo to “lead the textiles industry in sustainable solutions.”
“[Its] partnership presents a powerful opportunity for us to significantly scale up manufacturing and quickly make product available to customers worldwide, ultimately making the greatest environmental impact,” she added.