Fabric conditioning for more gentle shredding : Pre-treatment for mechanical recycling of cotton and polyester
Abstract: There is a growing need for fibres with increasing population. One way to solve this is to recycle the fibres from textile waste. In mechanical recycling by shredding the textiles are shredded back to fibrous form. The biggest problem with shredding is that it is a harsh process that reduces the fibre length and damages the fibre. To make the shredding process more gentle and preserve more of the fibre length, pre-treatment that lowers the friction between the fibres have been investigated. Polyethene glycol 4000 (PEG 4000) is an environmentally friendly chemical that could be used to lower the friction of cotton and polyester, the two most used textile fibres. Another treatment evaluated is glycerol. The treatment should not affect further processing of the fibres. For evaluating the treatment, a test of the interfibre friction was performed on carded webs and fabrics that were untreated and treated. Prior to shredding four samples were made of fabrics of cotton, polyester and polycotton. From each fabric, one was left untreated, and one was treated with a low concentration of PEG 4000. The concentration of PEG 4000 was chosen from the test on fibres. Also from each fabric, two treatments that were not prepared by the author; one with a high concentration of PEG 4000 and the other with glycerol. All 12 samples were shredded back to fibres. The shredded material was analysed, and the fibre length was measured. The reclaimed fibres from the shredded material were also tried to be processed into yarns. The main result was that it was possible to rotor spin yarn of 100% reclaimed fibres from cotton and polyester treated with PEG 4000, which means that the treatment did not interfere with the spinnability of the reclaimed fibres. Untreated cotton was also spinnable, but untreated polyester was not possible to card. The cotton and polyester treated with glycerol were possible to carded and made into a sliver but not spinnable. The reclaimed fibres from the polycotton fabric were not possible to card or process further. This result correlates with the analyses of the shredded material and the fibre length measurement. The best results were for polyester treated with 0.71 w% PEG 4000 that had 121% longer mean fibre length than untreated polyester. The best result for cotton was treated with 0.29 w% PEG 4000.
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