London-based Worn Again Technologies, a circular textile innovator, has opened a pilot research and development facility in a step towards commercialisation.
The upstart polymer recycling technology firm’s new facility is based at CPI, a technology and innovation centre in Redcar, which is located in North East England.
Worn Again is supported by major fashion retailers such as H&M, Kering and Mexico-based garment manufacturer Himes Corporation. In 2018 the tech firm had received a £5m cash injection from a raft of investors, including global fashion giant H&M, to advance its trail-blazing polymer recycling technology, which “cracks the code” on the circularity of raw materials for the textiles and apparel industry.
Worn Again Technologies, which was founded in East London in 2005, is leading the charge to solve part of the world’s plastic crisis and the growing problem of textiles being sent to landfill. The company formed on the ideal of creating a waste-free world where all materials are maintained in continuous circulation.
The polymer recycling firm plans to achieve this through transforming the fashion industry's current recycling techniques. Some of the current challenges faced by the fashion world include the difficulty of separating dyes and chemical immersed in materials and also the inability to separate blended polyester and cotton.
Based on these challenges, Worn Again has created a ground breaking polymer recycling process which can separate, decontaminate and extract polyester polymers and cellulose (from cotton) from non-reusable textiles, as well as plastic bottles and packaging, to enable them to be fed back into new products as part of a repeatable process.
The innovation not only enables the separation of both polyester and cotton but also produces two end products that are both comparable in quality and have the aim of being competitive in price to virgin resources.
In advance of the planned launch of an industrial demonstration facility in 2021, the R&D plant will continue to develop this technology.
Nick Ryan, Worn Again Technologies Technology Director said: "The pilot is a significant step in developments as it will allow us to confirm and further optimise the different steps in the process in one unit, accelerating our engineering development to the next step of a demonstrator plant."
Founder Cyndi Rhoades, added: "It is exciting to have progressed our developments from lab to plant. While there is still a long road ahead, it’s the next tangible step getting us closer to a scalable, commercially viable industrial process that will enable the move away from using finite virgin resources to the circularity of raw materials."