How can we get useful cellulose polymer fibers from old textiles?

Researchers from the University of Minho, Portugal, studied current perspectives on the extraction of cellulose polymer fibers from ancient textiles. Appearing in the journal Polymersthe paper provided a brief overview of current research in this area.

Study: Extraction of cellulose-based polymers from textile waste. Image Credit: TinyPhoto/

Extraction of cellulose-based fibers

Research on the extraction and exploration of cellulose-based polymers has rapidly become a key area of ​​interest in materials science and the textile industry in recent years. Traditionally, wood has been considered the primary source of this important material due to its natural abundance. Bleached kraft wood pulp is one of the most exploited forms in many industries.

However, despite the inherent durability of cellulose-based polymer fibers, over the past decade attention has turned to waste exploitation, particularly from the agricultural and textile industries. Recovering cellulosic materials from these valuable waste streams has the benefits of cost efficiency and waste reduction, aligning the production of many commercially useful materials with the concept of the circular economy.

Waste is a major concern in modern industry due to environmental contamination and depletion of natural resources. Many agricultural and textile wastes are typically disposed of by landfill or incinerated to produce biomass and energy. While recovering energy and biomass from waste has the potential to improve sustainability, valuable resources that could be used to make other products are lost in the process.

As the demand for cotton-based materials and products has increased, pre-consumer and post-consumer waste has also increased. With these products, there is significant potential for resource recovery, as finished cotton products contain up to 99% cellulose, with many impurities already removed during the manufacturing process.

The study

The special issue of the journal Polymers highlighted ten articles that detail advances and developments in the field of cellulose polymer fiber recovery from waste. The document received funding from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology.

A critical overview of the exploitation of cotton waste fibers

A recent critical review was conducted by Rizal et al. on fibers and the treatment of cotton waste. The review provided important insights into how methods of recovering and processing cotton waste fibers can mitigate the environmental impact of textile processing and other industries that use cotton materials and fibers. cellulosic.

The paper explored new work undertaken to evaluate these materials for functional products, highlighting several applications and exploring different pre-processing techniques.

Assessment of environmental and economic benefits

A recent study by Neto et al. evaluated the economic and environmental benefits of mechanical grinding to recover cellulose fibers in a textile company. They identified aspects that will benefit the circularity of adoption processes. Despite the limitations of the technology, the report highlighted the benefits of manual recycling for this purpose.

Use of different waste

Different wastes have been studied in recent research. A study demonstrated that using a new silver nanoparticle-modified extraction process to recover cellulosic fibers from citrus sinensis, the extracted materials were effective in removing chromium and cadmium from pharmaceutical effluents.

Rizal et al. demonstrated the use of a high pressure homogenization process to combine cellulose fibers extracted from cotton waste with supercritical carbon dioxide. This improves the properties of polylactic acid/chitin and is a green approach to improving yields of cellulose nanofibers from textile waste using supercritical carbon dioxide from carpet waste. This is the subject of recent research. The method produces valuable, high-quality isolates by removing impurities from the waste.

Applications of cellulosic materials extracted from waste

The article highlighted some of the commercial applications of recovered cellulosic polymer fibers. Regenerated fibers obtained from waste papers have been used in flexible SERS substrates. Modified with gold nanoparticles using spinning methods, the substrate has been successfully used to identify contaminants in aqueous solutions such as dimetridazole.

Another study reinforced recycled newspaper fibers with high-density polyethylene. The water resistance and good tensile properties of this material make it advantageous for outdoor applications. Banknote waste has been explored for use as biofuels such as biogas and bioethanol. Ink removal and material processing make them suitable for biorefinery feedstock.

Green synthetic methods have been explored to develop cellulose hydrogels for drug delivery purposes. The study by Al-Rajabi et al. exploited oil palm waste. This novel heat-sensitive hydrogel could aid in the development of cheap and durable drug delivery systems for the biomedical industry.

In summary

The new position paper provided a very brief overview of some of the recent developments and perspectives in this emerging area of ​​materials science research. The recovery of cellulose-based polymer materials from agricultural and textile waste will improve the circularity and economic viability of several industries in the future.

More information on AZoM: metrology in the digital age

Further reading

Felgueiras, HP Padrão, J. & Antunes, JC (2022) Extraction of cellulose-based polymers from textile waste Polymers 14(10) 2063 [online] Available at:

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