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Recovery Strategies for Textiles - ReSTex

A contribution to the circular economy challenge of the textile industry in Europe

About 110,000 tons of textile fiber are produced worldwide annually, which is equivalent to the production of 100 billion garments. However, only around 1% of textiles are recycled because the appropriate technologies are simply lacking.

The Josef Ressel Centre (JRZ) "ReSTex – Recycling Strategies for Textiles", funded by the Christian Doppler Society, deals with precisely this central topic for a more sustainable society: the recycling of textiles.

Through JRZ ReSTex, processes for the gentle separation of blended fabrics containing cotton and polyester, which together make up a large majority of textile fiber production, are being researched. The goal is to recover high-quality materials allowing the centre to make a valuable contribution to the European Green Deal in the field of circular economy of textile materials.

The ReSTex team, led by Dr. Christian Schimper, brings together experts from various research areas including cellulose chemistry, enzyme technology, textile processing, polymer processing, process engineering, analytics, machine learning & AI, life cycle analysis, and circular design.

At the Biotech Campus Tulln, cotton is enzymatically removed from cotton-polyester blends, and the polyester is purified so that it can be processed into high-quality granules using conventional PET recycling machines. Spectroscopic methods are used to screen and characterize the raw materials and to evaluate the requirements for recycling. A database of this analytical data is being created and processed with AI.

These research developments are supported by the FH Campus Wieselburg regarding economic and ecological considerations investigated through life-cycle analyses.

The cooperating research partners from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna are the Institute for Chemistry of Renewable Resources under the direction of Prof. Rosenau; the Biomaterial & Enzyme Technology and Bioplastics Technology research groups from the Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, IFA Tulln under the direction of Prof. Gübitz; and the working group of Senior Scientist Bartl from the Institute of Process Engineering, Environmental Technology and Technical Biosciences from the Vienna University of Technology.

The partner companies are Salesianer Miettex GmbH, Starlinger & Co GmbH and EREMA Engineering Recycling Maschinen und Anlagen GmbH. They actively contribute to improving the circularity of textile products by establishing and optimizing recycling processes.

The scientifically and economically active environment at the Tulln campus is part of the "Renewable Resources" Excellence Hub and includes ecoplus activities at the Technopol site in Tulln. Together with the leading international scientific institutes and competent business partners active in the field, the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt will ensure a synergistic combination of scientific depth and direct applicability for the five-year activities of the JRC "ReSTex".

With its results, JRZ ReSTex contributes to an essential cornerstone of the European Green Deal and simultaneously strengthens the position of the participating Austrian companies in the global recycling market.

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Head of the JRZ ReSTex, Christian Schimper and site manager of the Biotech Campus, Birgit Herbinger

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