Research evaluating technological innovation to improve the sustainability of textiles
The life cycle of textile products spanning from raw materials to yarn production, conversion, distribution and disposal of textiles contributes to 5%–10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the textile industry accounts for the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and the industry heavily pollutes waterways with microplastics and colorants.
With this important implications for the environment and people, Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has published a study to look at Technology innovate to move forward Sustainability of textiles.
Professor Xiaoming Tao, Director of the Institute for Smart Wearable Systems Research and President of PolyU’s Professor of Textile Technology, and Dr. Svetlana Boriskina of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have collaborated to research technological innovations that aim strengthen and accelerate the green transition of textiles. The study entitled “Strengthening the Lifecycle Sustainability of Textiles Through Technological Innovation” was published in the journal Sustainable nature. The study highlights a systematic analytical framework that identifies and unravels impactful textile technology developments.
The research team analyzed the impact of green technologies on textiles and garments based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda, especially those related to the use of green technologies. use of natural resources, energy and environmental impacts. The study collected 22,724 publications over the past 10 years, of which 940 were screened and 215 were studied in detail.
In the research findings, sustainability through innovations in raw materials and fibres, textile manufacturing and recycling technologies are discussed as future research and develop direction for the industry. These technological developments can also accelerate the green transition of textiles to achieve sustainability.
Research covers topics in:
- green science and high productivity-based processes
- data-driven exploratory research to identify and develop sustainable alternatives to synthetic polyester and nylon fibers
- compostable and biomass-based fibrous material
- the biological science of growing insect and disease resistant plant seeds that require less water
- color without water and less water
- reduce or eliminate production steps
- single materials in textiles to actively recover raw materials
Professor Tao said: “The research team has spent two years critically studying major technological developments in both industry and the laboratory, and their impact on sustainability from the ground up. to the end. The team considered this research cutting-edge technology that paves the way for an open, systematic, and qualitative large-scale data analysis for sustainability research.”
Looking ahead, promoting green science and technology is crucial to solving sustainability issues from the root to the end of the textile’s life cycle. For example, large-scale applications of green fibers made from biological sources would eliminate the poor biodegradability and microfiber contamination from petroleum-derived synthetic fibers. In addition, the development of technology will significantly reduce the use of energy and water in the conversion and consumption of textiles. Recycling, especially mechanical recycling, will become a major technology for single materials or several mixed textiles. Despite the challenges of adaptation, single-material textiles are likely to be one of the most effective design strategies for proactive material recovery and recycling efficiency.
Lisha Zhang et al, Enhancing lifecycle sustainability of textiles through technological innovation, Sustainable nature (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41893-022-01004-5
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
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