Worn Again Technologies, a British start-up developing polymer and cellulose recycling technology, will bring its patented innovation to market after hitting GBP5m (US$6.6m) investment target. After more than six years of intensive R&D, the company is coming out of the lab and bringing its patented technology to market.
Worn Again Technologies patented process can separate, decontaminate and extract polyester polymers and cellulose (from cotton) from non-reusable textiles, as well as plastic bottles and packaging, to go back into new products as part of a repeatable process.
The company, which was founded in 2005, explained that the innovation cracks the code not only by being able to separate both polyester and cotton but also by being able to produce two end products that are both comparable in quality and have the aim of being competitive in price to virgin resources.
“The process saves energy and will accelerate us towards a waste-free, circular resource world,” according to the company.
“There are enough textiles and plastic bottles ‘above ground’ and in circulation today to meet our annual demand for raw materials to make new clothing and textiles,” said Cyndi Rhoades, CEO of this company.
“With our dual polymer recycling technology, there will be no need to use virgin oil by-products to make new polyester and the industry will be able to radically decrease the amount of virgin cotton going into clothing by displacing it with new cellulose fibers recaptured from existing clothing,” he further explained.
Current recycling method
At present, less than 1% of non-wearable textiles are turned back into new textiles due to technical and economic limitations of current recycling methods.
According to the company, “It can reprocess pure and blended cotton and polyester textiles (together representing 80% of all clothing and textiles) meaning its solution offers the potential to increase the recycling of raw materials in textiles exponentially from the current 1%, with no price premium to manufacturers, brands or the consumer.”
Cambridge Ph.D. and Worn Again Technologies Chief Scientific Officer, Dr. Adam Walker, said, “The solution to the world’s plastics problem is not to stop using plastic altogether,”
Adam Walker explained that we have a solution to address the burgeoning need for recycling non-wearable textiles and plastics and we have been clamoring to get on with it for many years.
“This investment, combined with the increasing geopolitical awareness of the need for this technology, is enabling us to push through the scale-up and validation work to reach the market on an accelerated timescale,” he added.
The company was recently awarded a grant to become the first chemical recycling technology to be Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified.
Angel investor and Chairman Craig Cohon, said, “For the last few years, fighting against industry inertia and resistance to investing in our solution was incredibly difficult. Everyone in the industry was waiting for someone else to take the lead.”
The catalyst for the investment
The catalyst for the investment was fashion retailer H&M, now joined by new partners including Sulzer Chemtech, one of the world’s largest chemical engineering companies; Mexico based Himes Corporation, a garment manufacturer; Directex, a textiles producer, and Miroslava Duma’s Future Tech Lab.
The combined investment and support enables the optimization phase of the technology in the lab as well as industrial trials, scaling and designing of the industrial process with Sulzer Chemtech. These crucial steps will finalize developments to the point at which the technology is complete and ready for commercialization.
Worn Again Technologies has also partnered with Qvartz, a management consultancy firm with Nordic roots and global reach, to support its direction setting, partnership development, and commercialization model.
Worn Again Technologies is currently enlisting local, national and global investors and strategic partners who want to be part of the rapid expansion plan as it prepares for the first industrial demonstration plant to be launched in 2021.