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Lululemon backs enzymatic recycler

Process can recycle coloured plastics and fibres and mixed bales of product.

22nd May 2023

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Sydney, Australia

Clothing/​Footwear, Sustainable

Apparel brand Lululemon has announced a partnership with enviro-tech startup Samsara Eco, headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

The multi-year collaboration is based on scaling up textile-to-textile recycling and Samsara Eco creating the world’s first infinitely recyclable nylon 6.6 and polyester made from apparel waste.

The company’s technology uses enzymes which attack complex plastic polymers and revert them back to their original monomer chemical building blocks.

Plastics waste is sourced and prepared for recycling by cold washing with hard plastics chipped and textiles shredded, prior to the enzymatic depolymerisation.

To prepare the brand new monomers for re-manufacture into new plastics and fibres, they are then separated from any other additives, such as colourants. This is a game-changer compared to traditional recycling, which cannot recycle coloured plastics or mixed bales, the company says.

Nylon and polyester make up roughly 60% of the clothing produced today. 

 “The ability to infinitely recycle textiles, including nylon, is an essential solution to tackling the enormous challenge of textile waste in the apparel industry,” said Paul Riley, Samsara Eco CEO and founder.

 “Nylon remains our biggest opportunity to achieve our 2030 sustainable product goals,” added Yogendra Dandapure, vice president of raw materials innovation at Lululemon. “Through Samsara Eco’s patented enzymatic process, we’re advancing the ability to transform apparel waste into high quality nylon and polyester.”

The agreement marks Samsara Eco’s first partnership within the apparel industry following its $56 million Series A funding last year, as it pursues the aim of recycling 1.5 million tons of plastic annually by 2030.

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