The scale of the international textiles industry is enormous: it produces upwards of 100 billion pieces of clothing every year, represents 3% of the world’s GDP and employs around 75 million people. The USA alone generates around 15 million tonnes of textiles waste annually. Today, not even 5% of materials within the US$ 1.9 trillion global fashion industry get recycled. But that may be about to change. A group of researchers and scientists at Australia’s Deakin University has found a way to transform natural, dyed or blended fibres into various valuable products such as artificial joints. The innovative process breaks down fabrics to their chemical level, says Associate Professor Dr Nolene Byrne. Denim was an obvious starting point for the R&D project because it is made from cotton, a natural polymer comprised of 90% cellulose. ‘Cellulose is a versatile renewable material,’ she states. The Australian specialists managed to dissolve denim with eco-friendly liquid solvents and manipulate the remains into an aerogel. Byrne notes that aerogels are a class of advanced materials with very low density, sometimes referred to as ‘frozen smoke’ or ‘solid smoke’. When the researchers ...