Can This New Method of Recycling Reduce Fashion Waste?
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Can This New Method of Recycling Reduce Fashion Waste?

The ability to use a mixture of textile waste resources and convert them into building application products. Shows that there are endless possibilities. So here’s an example of tile that we produce
that has got a combination of a couple of different types of waste materials. And in this instance we’ve got glass coupled
with textiles and that just adds so much more color. We can create and reform these new mixtures
that we’ve created into hybrid panels for the built environment. It’s a whole new opportunity and a whole new
world that looks at transformation of textiles in a completely different dimension. Considered the alchemist of waste, Veena Sahajwalla
has been exploring its hidden potential on a molecular level. Where I grew up in Mumbai, it’s the industrial
heartland of India. People are very creative and they like to be able to take advantage
of every bit of material and product. We don’t appreciate enough value that is
embedded in our waste materials. That’s really one of the reasons
why I’m so passionate about it. I think we can do so much more and create
so much more value out of waste. As an engineer and materials scientist, she’s
built a career rerouting the world’s most problematic waste streams. She’s invented green steel, a technique
that uses shredded rubber tires to make the iron needed for steel. She’s also spun up an electronic waste microfactory
to tackle that mountain of waste, using modular systems to capture micromaterials from discarded
cell phones. And now, she’s turning her attention to
textiles. Because it’s gotten way too easy to buy
new clothes these days. There’s a constant flood of new items at
your fingertips and it’s all part of a speed up that’s happening in the fashion industry. The tonnage of waste, the numbers are simply
mind boggling. We’re talking about many, many millions of tons of waste materials. Some of the world’s largest clothing manufacturers
produce as many as 900 million items per year. And so we’re buying more clothes at lower
quality, using them for shorter periods of time, and then throwing them away. And that disposal loop is becoming a huge
problem. If you’re in the United States, roughly ten times more clothes are going into landfills today than in the 1960s. But Veena thinks there’s potential here,
even with those discarded 7 dollar shirts. A lot of the materials that go into manufacturing
our garments are indeed synthetic materials. So just because they don’t continue their
life as a garment because they’ve fallen apart doesn’t mean that the fundamental fibers
that are there in these garments are no longer useful. What is really fascinating is when you actually zoom in and look at it at a deeper level you can indeed look at it, as a collection
of molecules. That in fact presents so many different opportunities. With that kind of thinking, Veena and her
team invented a method that captures the molecular properties from discarded items and turns
them into building panels. When our garments come to us, there’s more
than just the textile in our clothes. We have, for example, zippers and buttons. The start of the journey for us has been about removing some of these other products so that we can focus in and look at textile itself. Then literally
zoom down and break it down into those microfibrils. Not all waste textiles deliver high level
performance. And this is why we’ve got to be very selective
in understanding what kind of properties we want. You know what are the different types of chemical
reactions that would occur if these different mixtures were to react with each other. Once they’ve got the textiles sorted, they’ll
incorporate recycled glass and wood into the mix to create an optimum blend. That then gives us the ability to use them
as structural products. And that strength can in fact be derived from
waste wood and can be derived from waste glass. So in fact, suddenly a mixture is not a bad
thing for recycling and reforming. It could well be a really, really good thing. That then becomes, in fact, the starting point for
the process, which requires us to apply heat and pressure. We have to have our fleece materials located
inside the mold. And that hot press really allows us to apply
the heat and pressure that’s required to ultimately create the finished product. The product then cools down, it forms into
that nice integrated structure that’s been bonded together and then it’s ready to be
extracted out of the press and ready to be trialed and tested. These building materials are piloted in Veena’s
microfactory, and the hope is that they’ll be used as tiles and interior finishes in your home one day. What we are doing of course, is going beyond
the traditional three r’s as people know is reduce, reuse, recycle. We can actually go beyond traditional recycling
and think about a fourth r, that we like to call reform, which means that we can really
reform the structure, we can reform that chemistry. No matter how many technologies we develop. I think we have to also take some responsibility
into our own hands. we need to ask the question, do we really
need so many different types of clothing items? Do we need to really go out there and purchase
the next best thing? It’s not good enough for us to think, well,
just because we’ve thrown away our old clothes that we’ve done our bit. That’s really why it’s so important for us
to look at our waste resources and the ability to transform into different types of products.
Looking at micro recycling ultimately has to be governed by the principles that we are
developing economies of purpose bringing our materials back to life over and over again
actually then further promotes and develops circular economy. And that notion of a circular economy is a
major part of Veena’s mission. Because it’s not just about making new building
materials or extracting materials from cell phones, it’s about rethinking our global
supply chain altogether. Having small and modular systems that can
be fine tuned in terms of the operations is what a microfactory is all about. The ability to actually take locally available
waste materials like textiles and waste glass for instance, gives us a whole range of possibilities
to create those local industries where you can actually apply your creativity as well
as of course engineering strengths. What that then does is allow you to create
a win-win outcome, both from an environmental point of view as well as delivering economic
benefits into the local region. What we are really talking about here is creating
those supply chains that make those resources so valuable and so useful that really no
one wants to even think about disposal. This whole journey of circular economy will
allow us to think very differently about our waste resources and never think of them as
an environmental burden. For more science documentaries, check out this one right here Don’t forget to subscribe and keep coming back to Seeker for more videos.

100 thoughts on “Can This New Method of Recycling Reduce Fashion Waste?

  1. this is the problem with an economic world. we think we thrive on manufacturing, but it actually also becomes our down fall, due to the mentality that to produce is to gain, rather than completing the thought that what does happen after we produced a product. which coincides with speakers notion of "we should consider the materials not as waste but a resource material so they will be excluded from being regarded as mere waste".

  2. Amazing woman! We need more people like her. Reclaiming waste like that could be the future of building materials and textiles. She said it best "Waste Resources". Very exciting!

  3. This is why I don't believe the doomsday scenarios of climate change. We are very adaptive and resilient creatures and our ingenuity is limitless. We are constantly finding and developing new and better ways to do the things we do. Not 20yrs ago you didn't see electric vehicles everywhere on the road. There were no wind farms powering cities or efficient solar power. I remember when glass bottles were the only thing you could recycle. Now nearly everything can be recycled. I'm optimistic. Do we have trials ahead. Sure we do but I think we'll be fine. We've been through much worse as a species.

  4. That's cool, but you should really look into the carpet industry. Most modern carpet is made of old carpet, and the new material used is actually recycled soda bottles. The carpet industry survives on recycling.

  5. and now these materials are bonded together forever, making them difficult to recycle/reuse after their useful lives in homes etc ends

  6. I bought a pair of shoes 9 years ago and i still use them every day, i buy a shirt or a pair of trousers every ~4 years and i don't have that problem. How about stop buying expensive trash quality clothing instead of fixing the result of this mistake?

  7. in india many rural household use clothes then they stuff them in pillows and they again use them as mop for cleaning floors may be all people do same and decrease clothing waste

  8. Geat idea, but will it be economically viable on a large scale, will it sell in the market – that will be the true test..

    Nice video though – saw the graphic on my timeline about this and was excited.

  9. Looks great. But I wonder about the toxins in the plastics that we are effectively reintroducing into the environment. What happens when those material break down? It would be nice if they covered those other questions.

  10. Cradle to cradle is an interesting concept but we tend stop at just a few recycled/reused cycles due to the new composite or concepts losing value and integrity over time and …well recycling. All that energy to create the new life for the products is just as bad or sometimes worse. I think it would be worthwhile from the beginning to incorporate circular economic concepts into the design of the objects rather than scrambling to fix things at the end. Also, these types of solutions like the video are great but what happens to those new tiles after they break? How many times can they be recycled? Is it worth using resources to recycle or create new?

  11. It looks like locking synthetic waste in other materials, rather than converting them to raw materials. So essentially these waste are accumulated and just delayed from moving to landfills. Furthermore since it involves labor intensive sorting and component separation, product price wont be competitive. Since same color waste is unavailable in large quantities, product is also non-scalable. Please prove me wrong in any of these cases.

  12. Green steel… By burning rubber from tires which is illegal in California.

    Seeker: Where irony requires a tungsten carbide coating!

  13. Could it be that the producers do not need to shoulder the cost of handling the waste? I know that the company I worked for had to pay for the recycling of every item we produced.

  14. You can never go beyond reducing and reusing. I only hope that this is an improvement on recycling, which is the last step.

  15. We need to start dealing with all our plastic waste. I'm not interested in putting colony on Mars, not even one bit. This planet Earth is the only place life can comfortably survive, everybody knows that! So lets use our scientific resources to clean ocean of plastic waste. Saving rain forests would be smart idea too.

  16. Good girl.but tAke cair of your health first.In third world we first plant factories and then look for junk problem polateen bags.if you can manage polateen bag.then your country wont suffer from 75% from deases. And money will be saved in so many public education. Science first target polateen bag.factories should have there workers to clean what junk the produce. Good girl.keep it up.

  17. The hybrid Indian-Australian accent made me giggle a few times. I'm expecting the Indian accent, and she suddenly slips into Strine for three words…

  18. Please stop boasting about how you dont throw clothes away. It's such an impotent, bitchy move to point fingers at who you perceive as wasteful, deficient people. First, make sure end-of-life management exists. Then, stop producing shit-tier garments. Finally, deal with he myriad social issues which affect people's relationship to their clothes or to fashion. I predict the biggest indicators for fast wardrobe turn-over is anxiety, depression and poverty. Think about the reality of the problem before getting on your high-horse.

  19. "Circular economy." That's a new one for me. I like it. Microfactories have staggering amounts of resources to work with, to make staggering profits. Research research!

  20. The problem with using recycled materials commercialy is that people are incentivized to manufacture them without using recycled materials. :-/

  21. Why can’t we just use material that can be recycled? Why is that so hard? Why do we need special plastics and material that cant be broken down into its original material? Why?

  22. This will likely not be a viable product for tile or exterior finishings due to its water permeable nature. The same reason solid granite counter-tops are not viable when compared to there mixed resin counterparts. I see this more as an insulation or sub-floor material, assuming it can be fastened using traditional methods.

  23. And what happens when this starts washing down the drains and into our rivers and seas as the building erodes and also from cutting/breaking/smashing during construction? This sounds like a bad idea – almost as bad as stupid plastic roads.

  24. This is nothing new. People have been talking about turning trash into something usable. Guess what? It never takes off.

  25. i bought a new coat once and it fell apart in 6 months.
    then i bought a 50 year old swiss army jacket and i've been wearing it 9 years, and it's still in great shape.
    the quality problem led to the waste, not the other way around.

  26. WOW what an idea more micro plastic all over the world. Those useless politicians need to make harder rules for manufacturing off all kind off items.This buy and throw away that is happening now is an REALLY bad idea.

  27. No matter how my clothes cry out for death. I will not release them until they come apart at the seams. Strands of sanity flying everywhere. Only to be consigned to the flames and peace at last. Dont even ask even about shoes. Thats really ugly.

  28. Haven't people been doing this since the 1980s? Have to focus on why it hasn't caught on over nearly 40 years, rather than just enhancing the technology to make more things. It won't work if no one uses the technology.

  29. For anyone interested in learning more about Circular Economy here's a great place to start:

  30. Another waste resource we need to work on is the landfills themselves. We need to find a way to breakdown landfill waste quicker, without releasing emissions or anything else into our atmosphere, air, water, or soil, and then find a way to sort and extract materials from landfills. We already do this to some level, but we need to figure out how to do it with plastics, foods, organic waste, metals (of all sort), textiles, etc… all mixed together like it would be at a landfill. While I try to reduce, reuse, and recycle, I know not everyone will do that, and not everyone will pre-sort their waste, we already have landfills full of mixed materials that can be used if we can only figure out how to break them down (better), sort them (better), and extract them (better).

  31. Does the term "brand new" apply here? This isn't a brand, and it's not entirely new, but it's awesome, and in the same way that some parts of the world have mandated that all toilet paper must be post-consumer recycled material, we could mandate that certain composite building materials be also. This would divert tons of landfill waste into a new life.

  32. She's researching how to make composites from waste. And what happens when we need to recycle those new materials? On the whole, making a composite makes something unrecyclable, or at least very difficult (energy expensive) to recycle. That's "ending the chain" rather than "closing the loop." It's the same reason we can't recycle many food containers: they contain multiple materials attached together, like multiple types of plastics, aluminum foil, paper, glue, ink, and leftover food.

  33. Was that a whole ass robot to just gently pick up a stick of ram? I know it does more I'm just wondering why that had to be the shot they went with

  34. Hey there! Mistakes happen—and unfortunately, we made one. At 2:20 we intended to say "In the U.S., over 6x more textiles were landfilled in 2015 than in 1960,” not 10x. We sincerely apologize and thank those of you who called attention to it!

  35. ……………….so why go all stupid expensive with microscopes and high tech crap and turn it into ugly tiles nobody wants?!?
    What's wrong with shredding it into fibers and making it into say… Shop rags, cloth diapers, more clothes, etc., etc., etc. Seriously….. This was dumb as hell. I feel dumber than when I woke up, thanks.
    Veena, give up your day job!!!

  36. How much fossil fuel is used to re-purpose all this stuff? Is the process of processing it all environmentally sound in itself?

  37. We are heading to a cliff if we are not changing our ways of over consumption. Not that it's taking up resources, the waste it produce will be another challenge, so, it we are facing two problems for one bad habits. Hope this technology will work well in a good economic sense

  38. I wear clothes and shoes untill they fall apart and won’t stay together. The wore out stuff wears the best.

  39. What marvellous ideas you have! Great by thinking foreword and changing what we need to do to reduce waste!

  40. This seems labor intensive if you have to look at the molecular structure before using the textile.

  41. But what after they erode and are no longer tiles. It's still plastic soo…….. Is it going to just fall into a dumping ground again?

  42. So make really difficult to recycle stuff from recycled waste? At least it looks like hell to recycle, fiber, plastic and glass mixed into hard material? Yeah. No.

  43. Very interesting concept: and redirecting the way textiles are discarded; turning them back into textiles, and building materials, and energy. Removing them out of the landfill cycle too a greater extent.

  44. I thought I recognised the researcher's voice. Yes, I've seen her on a number of science programmes. She's brilliant.

  45. Just dont buy fast fashion clothes or brand not to last. And its done. Just like taking care of the earth is cheaper than to build in mars because u dont know its gonna get extinct first than earth right? Even recycling is not very effective as human been doing it centuries ago. Fast fashion can lead to fast remember that Not all fast is good.

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