Salvation Army plans first commercial-scale polyester recycling facility

In partnership with corporate wear producer Project Plan B, the Salvation Army Trading Company Ltd (SATCoL) – the trading arm of the Salvation Army – claims to have successfully recycled polyester back into raw material – technology which will be deployed at commercial-scale in a world first.

Project B GraphicThe joint venture between the two companies, named Project:Reclaim, will see the technology installed in September at SATCoL’s Kettering-based processing centre, a site that already sorts and processes 65,000 tonnes of textiles annually.

Project:Reclaim believes that the new plant will be able to recycle 2,500 tonnes of polyester in its first year of operations, rising to 5,000 tonnes the following year. The material will be recycled into pellets which can be used to create yarn.

SATCoL estimates that the process uses approximately a tenth of the energy required to make virgin polyester.

Project Plan B CEO, Tim Cross, commented: “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.”

Polyester is a target material for recycling due to its prevalence in clothing production. The UK produces over half a million tonnes of polyester waste a year, with each tonne produced  responsible for over 20 tonnes CO2e/T. Currently, the only options for its disposal are incineration or landfill.

Head of Environment and Sustainability at SATCoL, Majonne Frost, 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.”

In order to maximise its capacity for polyester recycling, SATCoL claims it cannot solely rely on clothing bank donations. They are actively seeking corporate partners to commit to donating 100 per cent polyester textiles to their processing plant.

Frost added: “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 per cent polyester textiles such as used hotel linen or post-event promotional banners.”

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