Sorting and Separation

Polymer recycling solutions for textile waste containing elastane

Saal B
Mittwoch, 11.09.2024, 14:45 - 15:10 Uhr

In order to support the upcoming textile recycling processes and enhance the feasibility of polymer recovery from textile waste, two methods will be presented. First, the elastane quantification tool for accurate detection of elastane shares in textiles. Second, a feasible process to separate elastane from end-of-life textiles to recover polyester and polyamide.

Emanuel Boschmeier (TU Wien)
When it comes to recycling of textiles, a certain fibre exhibits major challenges in upcoming textile recycling processes – elastane. Further known as spandex, elastane is a synthetic polymer fibre based on polyurethane. Even though the most commonly used fibre types polyester, cotton or polyamide are in principle recyclable as a pure material, elastane, even if present only in small amounts, makes a textile unsuitable for recycling. In this featured work two research highlights proved with analytical observations are presented. The first research outcome is the successful development of a faster, more reliable and more eco-friendly tool to detect and quantify elastane in textiles using differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). With that elastane quantification tool it is possible to detect elastane much faster (78 minutes) compared to the standardized method (24 hours) and without using harmful substances. Next to that a feasible process to separate elastane from polyester/elastane and polyamide/elastane textile waste has been successfully developed. Based on a selective solvent, a full recovery of polyester and polyamide is demonstrated. Different methods were applied to proof the possibility of immediate reuse of the polymers for production of new textiles. The two presented research outcomes are the first feasible approach on a technical level to reuse textile waste containing elastane. The elastane quantification tool and the elastane separation process are already published in scientific journals.