Safety company Arco has committed seed funding to start-up Stuff4Life to support the research and development of a polyester workwear recycling project.
The funding will enable Stuff4Life to commission a chemical recycling demonstration plant in collaboration with Teesside University, bringing onboard its academic experts, research capabilities and facilities.
The plant would recover the base compound terephthalic acid (TPA), used in the production of polyester fabric, from recycled workwear.
The recovered TPA would then be reincorporated into various manufacturing processes, with the goal being to manufacture new polyester to deliver a ‘PPE for Life’ opportunity in the UK.
As part of the trial phase, Arco and Stuff4Life will collect, shred, and transport up to six tonnes of end-of-line polyester, and polyester mix, garments. The garments will then be recycled using chemical processes.
If the initiative is successful, Arco and Stuff4Life will be able to support a circular economy for workwear.
Arco managing director David Evison said: “As a fifth-generation family business, Arco has always put corporate and social responsibility at the heart of the organisation. Our involvement with Stuff4Life and Teesside University is an opportunity to make a real difference to the environmental and social impacts of workwear and to use our scale and product development capabilities to drive an effective circular economy, supporting local regeneration and ensuring we protect more people and the planet.”
John Twitchen, director of Stuff4Life, added: “The humble hi-vis is an essential item for everyone working in hazardous environments, from mending roads and collecting bins to saving people at sea or up mountains. The impact of polyester as a linear make-use-dispose garment is significant, but by recycling it those impacts can be substantially reduced whilst keeping all the performance benefits from using synthetic fibres. We’re excited to be working on such an important project with the country’s leading safety company.”