Research journal entry 10- TEXTILE RECYCLING

In the textile industry, as in most industries, has a huge problem of waste. Among other general things such as water, there are tonnes of discarded threads, offcuts and clothes being thrown away each year.

But is this yet another untapped resource which could be used, rather than left to rot in landfill sites?

The process of recycling textiles isn’t a particularly complicated one, but it is a long one, due to the amount of sorting procedures that have to take place. The most important one for me, however, is that of sorting the natural fabrics, from the synthetic ones.

Could textiles be used as fuel

Natural fibres are a source of carbon-neutral fuel for biomass heaters, cotton pellets are created by companies for this very purpose.  This being said, surely we could therefore use waste natural textiles as a raw fuel, as we use wood? This means that the heating and hot water of the building could come from the combustion of the natural textiles.

Another use for the natural fibres, which has started being developed recently, is as insulation in buildings. Companies, such as  Kraft Architecture and Innotherm, are starting to market recycled wool insulation as a natural insulation alternative for buildings. With a thermal conductivity rate of 0.036W/mK, the insulation seems quite effective, as well as having the added benefits of being less irritant to skin and a very high absorption rate of unwanted moisture within the building skin. The production method of creating the insulation also uses 90% less energy than typical methods.

The natural building insulation, made up of 100% natural fibres, 60% of which are wool

Waste textiles, as a whole can be used for creating new textiles. Apart from the obvious method of patch working, after being sorted and shredded into ‘shoddy’ the textiles can be used as the cushioning of upholstery etc. However, the process of carding, makes the fibres even more versatile. This means that the fibres can then be respun into thread, yarn and rope,  and the processes of the textile industry can then begin again.

How is this relevant to my building? 

The uses described above show the extent of how old textiles could be used within the building.

From the building programme point of view, the materials used within the workshop could all originate from recycled textiles. The existence of different colours within these recycled materials means that the dying area of the workshop is not really needed, although a sink may still be necessary.

Recycled textiles could also be part of the buildings make up, in terms of the insulation.

The heating and hot water could also come from the consumption of textiles as a fuel.

Now, I pose the question, where could all these textiles come from?

The building could substitute the non-existent clothes banks in the area

The building itself, is quite small, so its waste will not generate nearly enough to serve all these purposes. In the surrounding area of the site, there are many fashion designers, clothes production and textile companies, as well as residential housing. £238 million worth of domestically used textiles are thrown out in the UK each year. However, there are no recycling banks for textiles.  The building itself could become a textile recycling bank. This, not only would provide it with enough resources for use in the workshop and for the heating of the whole building, but would also help to reduce the waste of the local textile industry.

This would mean providing enough storage for the waste textiles.

Also, is there some way that the shredding of the material could be done within the building, rather than just housing the textiles for collection by a recycling firm?

Packages of re-cycled clothes

When looking at the packages  in which waste textiles are sorted, there is a very distinct form. The outside is very similar to the form seen in fabric formed concrete walls and the package itself almost looks like a building block. Is there some way this could be incorporated into the design of the building?

I have already seen examples of installations where waste garments are built into walls, is there some way this idea could be used to inspire some of the interior partitions in the building?

Installation using textile wastage to create a wall

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