US company Circ, one of the finalists of the 2023 Earthshot Prize, has developed an innovative method to recycle polycotton through a technology that transforms fabrics back into the raw materials that were used to make them.

Separating cotton from polyester

Circ takes polycotton and completely separates the polyester from the cotton fibres through a patented hydrothermal process, which transforms polyester fibres into a liquid polymer. The conservation and separation of polyester, without damaging the cotton, makes it possible to reuse both fibres in the production of new fabrics, while also substantially reducing carbon emissions.

In addition to its technology, the company, based in Danville, Virginia, has also patented by-product fabrics. One of these is a cellulose fibre regenerated from textile waste, called Circ Lyocell, which uses a closed production cycle to manufacture fabrics equal in quality to those made from virgin lyocell, obtained from trees. Then there’s Circ Polyester, a regenerated polyester that looks, feels, and performs like virgin polyester but is derived from waste fibres.

Toward more circular and sustainable fashion

To date, Circ has saved over 100 tonnes of textile waste from being sent to landfill, putting them back in circulation and avoiding 130,000 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Within the next three years, the company plans to open a facility that can recycle 60,000 tonnes of textile waste per year. By 2030, Circ aims to quintuple its capacity to 300,000 tonnes of recycled waste.

In the words of Peter Majeranowski, CEO and co-founder of Circ, “unlocking the capacity to recycle synthetic fabrics is essential to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and incinerators each year.”

While excessive consumption and fast fashion remain the main challenges for the creation of a more sustainable industry, considerable technical obstacles also exist: for example, fabric recycling solutions are still not able to effectively process polycotton, which takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.




Sustainable fashion


Fabrics made from recycled plastic polymers and cotton


Patented technology that restores fabrics to the raw materials from which they were made.


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