Researchers at UNSW Sydney have developed a process to turn old clothing and textiles into high-quality building products such as flat panels.
These high-end composite products can have a wood veneer look or a ceramic-style finish and were lab tested for qualities such as fire and water resistance, flexibility, acoustic and load-bearing capabilities but have not undergone any formal regulatory assessment.
Researchers led by director of UNSW's Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Professor Veena Sahajwalla have been scientifically reforming common waste items using prototype technology developed for a laboratory-scale 'green microfactory' to be launched in 2019.
Sahajwalla said these results were a direct effort to combat global waste and unsustainable landfill issues.
“These newly published results of the wonderful products developed from waste come as an effort to find ways to reduce waste and address our unsustainable landfill problems, which all countries are experiencing.
“It could be said that consumers and the fashion industry have a lot to answer for, given that clothing is now one of the biggest consumer waste streams, with 92 million tonnes estimated to be thrown out a year globally.
“The clothing and textiles industry is the second most polluting sector in the world, accounting for 10% of the world's total carbon emissions.”
While the textiles materials tested well in labs to mechanical performance properties including strength, flexibility and resistance, further lab testing is required to explore these properties ahead of consideration of applying for any formal assessment against construction regulations.
Sahajwalla said green microfactories can not only produce high performance materials and products, they eliminate the necessity of expensive machinery, save on the extraction from the environment of yet more natural materials, and reduce the waste burden.
Recent UNSW consumer research showed most people did not believe the waste materials they put out in their recycle bins is actually recycled but ends up in landfill, with 91.7% of people saying is it very or somewhat important for Australia to invest in technology to 'reform' most common waste to reduce landfill.