What is the challenge behind textile recycling?

Recycling multiple fiber materials can be challenging because different fibers have different properties and can require different processes to be recycled effectively. For example, cotton and polyester have different melting points, which means that they cannot be processed together in a single recycling facility. Additionally, fibers may be contaminated with other materials such as dyes, adhesives, or coatings, which can also affect the recycling process and limit the ability to recycle multiple fiber materials together. To overcome these challenges, fiber materials are often separated into their individual types before they are recycled to ensure that they can be processed efficiently and effectively.

There are several methods for separating different fibers when recycling textiles:

  1. Hand sorting: This is a manual process where workers physically sort through mixed textiles and separate them into different fiber categories based on their appearance and texture.
  2. Air classification: This method uses air currents to separate fibers based on their weight and density. Lighter fibers such as polyester will be carried by the air current, while heavier fibers such as cotton will fall to the bottom.
  3. Hydro-cyclones: This method uses water to separate fibers based on their density and weight. Fibers are fed into a water-filled chamber where they are spun around by the water flow. Heavier fibers such as cotton will sink to the bottom, while lighter fibers such as polyester will float to the top.
  4. Density separation: This method uses a combination of water and air to separate fibers based on their density. Mixed textiles are placed in a water bath and agitated, causing the fibers to separate based on their weight and density.

Regardless of the method used, the goal of fiber separation is to separate mixed fibers into individual categories so they can be processed efficiently and effectively in the recycling process.

Some companies that separate textile fibers include:

  1. Mahlo GmbH & Co. KG (Germany)
  2. Bräcker AG (Switzerland)
  3. Rieter (Switzerland)
  4. Truetzschler GmbH & Co. KG (Germany)
  5. Oerlikon Manmade Fibers (Switzerland)

These companies specialize in the manufacturing of machinery and technology for the textile industry, including fiber separation equipment.

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