Wednesday 21 January 2015

Building The Case For Reusing Waste Textiles

It's a sad fact that we send millions of tons of unwanted or worn-out clothing to landfill every year. As well as being wasteful, it's bad for the environment and puts pressure on recycling services that are already stretched to breaking point.
But there is another way. It's down to the ongoing trend in science to treat waste not as a problem, but as an opportunity. Civil engineer Yu-Fu Ko of California State University has been researching the use of waste textiles, and has come up with a surprising idea: using it to refit buidings that have been damaged by earthquakes.
Ko has hopes that waste fabric, when combined with a resin derived from plant sources, could be strong enough to shore up concrete structures like bridges and buildings that have suffered stress from a building wave of extreme weather events. He believes that this new material is even tough enough to use as a substrate in new builds: the mega-structures of the future.
His new matrix of fabric and resin has other advantages. It helps take pressure from rapidly depleting timber reserves, and is a friendly alternative to the carbon fibre material that's currently used in earthquake-damage repair. This is nasty stuff: tricky to handle and hazardous if the fibres are inhaled.
We're seeing a lot of radical and lateral thinking regarding the whole issue of waste, and Ko's resarch is a fine example of this. If it takes off, we can all feel a little less guilty about binning that worn-out pair of jeans (although repair is always an option...).

Read more on Yu-Fu Ko and his research at the California State University website.

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