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Polyester to be given a second life in new Salvation Army project

The trading arm of the Salvation Army (SATCoL) have partnered with corporate workwear supplier Project Plan B to open the first commercial scale post-consumer polyester recycling plant.

There has hitherto been no polyester recycling in the UK, the only manner of disposing of it has been landfill or burning.

Project Plan B have developed the exclusive polyester recycling system which is based on plastic bottle recycling and SATCoL will install the machine at one of their processing centres, where 65,000 tonnes of donated textiles are already being sorted and processed every year.

The recycling process creates polyester pellets from which yarn can be produced. The production of the pellets will use ten times less energy than pellets made from virgin polyester. 

The UK produces over half a million tonnes of polyester textile waste annually with over 300,000 tonnes of it disposed of in household bins. Currently only 1% of textiles consumed in the UK are recycled,

Tim Cross, CEO at Project Plan B: ‘We need a seismic change in how garments are designed and produced. Polyester textile recycling is one of the biggest opportunities to reduce the harmful impact of producing garments and this new technology is the first proven commercial scale system that has been designed to cope with the challenges of recycling post-consumer clothing.’

This new plant will recycle around 2,500 tonnes in its first year, rising to 5,000 tonnes in its second, and aims to recycle polyester that has come to the end of its useful life. 

Majonne Frost, Head of Environment & Sustainability at SATCoL, said: ‘Last year SATCoL enabled reuse and recycling of over 250 million products but there are always items which are too damaged and we cannot resell and they are often garments made from polyester. With this new technology we can give these clothes a new lease of life. So when your favourite jumper is worn-out, we will take it and turn it into polyester pellets, ready to be turned back into a new jumper. This is the future of fashion.’

‘Our vision is to enable companies to produce corporate wear and fashion garments using recycled polyester.  The incredible vision of Project Plan B has brought about the development of the technology, we have the infrastructure to collect donations at scale and we now need companies to step up. This is an opportunity for companies to make a commitment to significantly reduce their environmental impact. In preparation for full production, we are currently seeking 100% polyester textiles such as used hotel linen or post-event promotional banners.’

SATCoL already has the UK’s only automated textile sorting facility at their purpose-built processing centre in Kettering. Here second-hand textiles are automatically sorted by fibre type as the first step in textile-to-textile recycling. The polyester recycling coming online is the next step towards their ambition to create the UK’s first fibre farm, with the aim of massively scaling up textile-to-textile recycling of all types of materials. 

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