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Blazing a trail for reducing textile waste

* REDFR.jpgThe development of a new textile flame retardancy system will enable UK companies to increase the usage of recycled materials.

A consortium of industry experts led by the Furniture Industry Research Association -the furniture industry body - and supported by The Technology Strategy Board, has developed a means of producing flame-retardant products made from recycled fibre and flame retardant components.

In this project, known as REDFR - Reduced Emissions by Development of Novel Sustainable Flame Retardent Products - the flame retardant components are safe, have a markedly lower environmental impact than the 'conventional' alternatives studied and can be applied at around one tenth of traditional recommended dosing levels, while still meeting the UK's tough flame retardancy standards.

The new technology is already cost-competitive and is expected to become less expensive than existing production methods as the price of wool-rich textile waste continues to escalate. The consortium focused on the development of a technology that is fully compatible with existing production methods, which means it can be readily incorporated into existing manufacturing plants at minimum inconvenience and cost.

The flame retardancy system is compatible with a broad range of textile mixtures, maximising the available material for processing by converters. The reuse of materials that are currently discarded to landfill could increase dramatically within an industry that is struggling to maintain its feedstock supply routes.

The UK nonwoven processing/textile recycling industry consists of many small companies with small budgets for research and development, though the industry provides a huge benefit for the environment through diversion of textile waste from landfill. A development of this kind could lead to an increase in the usage of recycled textiles in other markets, diverting tens of thousands of tonnes of waste material from landfill and producing greener, safer products.
Speaking of the initiative, Sue Calver, of FIRA, says: "Thanks to the Technology Strategy Board's investment we have been able to develop a technology that opens up a wealth of new opportunities for UK recycled textile processors."

The UK generates around 2 million tonnes of textile waste each year, of which only 25% is reused or recycled and the vast majority of the remainder goes to landfill.

The furniture and bedding industries make up around two-thirds of the existing recycled fibre market, manufacturing nonwoven padding for furniture, seating and bedding. Wool fibre has inherent flame-retardant properties and traditionally, recycled wool-rich clothing waste has been used to ensure the padding passes the UK's stringent furniture safety standards.

However, the availability of wool-rich garments is reducing, as consumers tend to choose fleeces and interlined jackets constructed from synthetic fibre rather than woollen jumpers and coats. Synthetic flame retardants are available, but many of these have proven associated health concerns (including bioaccumulation and carcinogenity) and are harmful to the environment. There is, therefore, a pressing need to find an alternative method of conferring flame retardancy to recycled fibre, with minimum impact to cost, safety and the environment.

About the Consortium:

FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) is an internationally renowned research and technology organisation dedicated to the furniture industry.

NIRI (Nonwovens Innovation & Research Institute) is a University of Leeds spin-out company that specialises in the development of nonwoven fabrics and other technical textiles to meet the requirements of industry and commerce.

Aestiva is a consultancy company specialising in novel projects to promote cradle to cradle precepts into clothing and fashion.

Edward Clay & Son is a manufacturer engaged in the recycling of a wide variety of textile wastes, in order to minimise the impact on the environment and the amount sent to landfill. Products include fillings for the bedding sector and fabrics for horticulture, packaging, upholstery, and engineering/electrical services.

GnoSys UK is a University of Surrey spin-out company with significant experience in fire retardant chemistry, specialising in environmental systems analysis related to resource efficiency and economic-environmental life-cycle assessment in support of the sustainability agenda.

Yaaparra, part of the Trulstech Group, is a developer and supplier of a range of totally organic flame retardancy products.

E: [email protected]
E: [email protected]

11th March 2011

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