Matoha a tech start-up based in London have created an affordable Near Infra-Red (NIR) scanner for identifying the composition of textiles. Now small-scale processors can have a portable affordable machine that will let them identify those materials that are recyclable and separate those that might contaminate any recycling processes.
Having won the “Make-A-Difference” final at Imperial College London in 2017 they have spent the intervening years not only refining the original plastic scanner that gives quick accurate results for various plastics that you find around the world but have expanded into new areas with the ability to give an accurate analysis of what a textile is made out of.
With more and more awareness amongst the general population that fashion and clothes have a high environmental impact the whole fashion industry, from high-end designers to charity shops realise more must be done to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment. As clothes are made in many different countries for many different companies with many different materials there are no standard rules and the variation is huge.
You also cannot even rely on the labels always being correct with some studies estimating that 30% of all labels in clothes do not give the right material composition. So now instead of direct chemical testing to identify the composition of a fabric which is often expensive, and not practical on a large scale. Many textile recyclers have been searching for a quick non-destructive alternative especially considering the high demand for segregated textile feedstocks including valuable waste streams such as cotton, where there is currently a shortage of virgin material
And it’s a big problem in 2018 an estimated 620 000 tonnes of textiles was collected for re-use and recycling in the UK. Once the material is collected it must be sorted, often by hand. Hand sorting can be a slow and laborious job that requires a high level of skill and training. When these textiles are not well sorted it has the possibility of causing issues such as the chillian fabric mountain
Once the material is segregated you still need to find recycling routes, and there are new technologies that show promise for textile recycling – Chemical recycling is fast being seen as a viable output for polycottons in waste textiles, but only if the material streams have minimal contamination so its more important than ever that if we want to reduce plastic pollution and increase recycling we must make sure textiles are accurately sorted.
Allowing smaller companies to access technology solutions to these problems will allow new entries to the industry and make small scale processing viable and lucrative to those willing to invest the time and energy. Fashion isn’t going anywhere so we must find ways to use tools like the fabritell to ensure textiles are properly managed and processed effectively.