Clothes sanitisation technology could cut waste from fashion industry

An eco-friendly method of sanitising clothing could help the environment by “dramatically” slashing waste, researchers at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have said.

In trials conducted by the University team, it has been demonstrated that a state-of the-art ‘sanitisation chamber’ effectively kills a vast range of germs and viruses, such as E. coli, S. aureus and coronavirus, which can otherwise linger on clothing and fashion accessories.

The sanitisation chamber is now being trialled on PPE, making it safe to reuse, which could significantly reduce environmental waste from PPE products.

Researcher Dr Mohammed Yaseen said: “This revolutionary technology has real potential to disrupt the fashion and textile industry and offers huge environmental benefits, which could see a significant reduction in landfill waste from clothing.”

Currently, about 40 per cent of clothing purchased online is returned, with less than half of it being resold and the remainder ending up at landfill sites or being burned. Through extending the lifetime of a garment by three months, its carbon footprint is reduced by 10 per cent and a pre-owned purchase, or a rented garment, saves 1kg in waste, 3,040 litres of water and 22kg of CO2.

The technology was developed alongside Glasgow-based firm ACS which prolongs the life of used or damaged garments for some of the country’s biggest brands, through their sustainable textile repair, refurbishment and cleaning service.

Anthony Burns, chief operating officer of ACS Clothing, said: “Every piece of PPE presents a sustainability and recycling challenge. Many items were initially deemed single-use because knowledge of sterilising these items wasn’t available. With sterilisation technology, we hope to reverse much of this single-use problem.”

Yaseen added: “The eco-friendly solution uses ozone gas to decontaminate fabrics, which subsequently helps to reduce the use of water and avoid negative environmental impacts from detergent use.

In 2020, University of Manchester researchers warned that the fashion industry must make urgent and fundamental changes in order to prevent devastating environmental damage.

It is currently one of the world’s largest industrial polluters and continues to grow, in part due to the rise of fast fashion. British people buy more clothes per person than any other European nation, with only a limited amount of used clothing being reused or recycled; less than one per cent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.

Last year, researchers in the US developed new indigo dyeing technology that is supposed to be an eco-friendly alternative to current methods.

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