A closed-loop textile recycling process that converts end of use textiles back into virgin-like raw materials is preparing to set up a demonstration plant and scale-up with a planned output of 1,000 tonnes a year.

UK-based Worn Again Technologies was founded in 2005 and is majority owned by its technology partner Sulzer Chemtech and H&M Group.

The company earlier this year secured up to EUR8m (US$9m) in new funding to help accelerate the development of its patented polymer recycling process, which uses selective dissolution to separate, decontaminate and convert used cotton and polyester garments – as well as plastic bottles and packaging – into polyester pellets and cellulosic pulp that can then be re-spun into new fibres.

Thanks to its expertise in separation technology, Sulzer is providing the customised distillation, extraction and polymer solutions that are at the heart of this new textile upcycling model.

Worn Again Technologies in January launched a pilot research and development  facility in January, and with the help of Sulzer's Chemtech experts is now designing and building a larger demonstration facility. 

The vast majority of garments currently produced are made of mixed cotton and polyester fibres, yet it is estimated that only 1% of clothes are recycled into new garments because they contain a complex mix of various types of fibres, dyes, fillers and additives, making them difficult to recycle. 

The new chemical process developed by Worn Again Technologies will help tackle this issue and provide a new solution to deal with the millions of tons of garments that end up in landfills or incinerators each year.