VTT has developed a range of knitted textiles using recycled cotton yarn

VTT has developed a range of knitted textiles using recycled cotton yarn

Researchers in Finland have developed a range of "natural" feeling knitted textiles made from chemically recycled cotton yarns.

The method developed by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland for producing the range of textiles involves dissolving worn and discarded cotton and using it as a raw material for new fibre.

Yarn was spun at Tampere University of Technology from discarded cotton turned into fibre in VTT's laboratory. After this, the first prototype products – gloves and flat-knitted fabrics – were made by knitwear company Agtuvi.

VTT says the recycled fibre is smooth with a subdued matt finish and good drape, and feels "halfway between cotton and viscose." The researchers claim the method is "much friendlier" to the environment when compared to the viscose process which uses carbon disulphide for dissolution. In addition, they say polyester residues are removed from the cotton material using methods from the pulp industry.

"According to calculations during the technology commercialisation project, the carbon footprint of recycled fibre produced using carbamate dissolution technology is about a third smaller than for cotton and in the same category as the most environmentally friendly viscose. The water footprint of the recycled fibre is around 2% of that of virgin cotton and 10% of viscose," says a statement detailing the study.

The research forms part of the TEKI project. Launched internationally and titled The Relooping Fashion Initiative, it involves piloting and modelling a closed-loop ecosystem in line with circular economy principles; the ecosystem will enable new industrial applications of previously unusable textile waste. 

Finnish researchers pilot closed loop cotton production