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Circular solutions for the textile industry

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Glaukos (Circular solutions for the textile industry)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-11-30

Glaukos* will develop innovative textile fibres and textile coatings that reconcile an excellent environmental performance with adequate technical characteristics. The focus lies on two important contributors to the (micro)plastic pollution in our oceans: fishing gear and clothing. The complete life cycle of these textiles will be redesigned: their sustainability performance (i.e. biodegradability and bio-recyclability) will be enhanced significantly, while their technical performance will be matched to end-user requirements. Glaukos builds upon i) triggerable biodegradability as key concept in polymer design to mitigate textile-based microplastics pollution, and ii) bio-recycling as sustainable end-of-life solution. In addition, the supply chain distance is substantially reduced by scaling up a disruptive way of producing the main polymer building block from several bio-based feedstocks. The underlying objective of Glaukos is to reduce the carbon and the plastic footprint of clothing and fishing gear.

Stakeholder engagement is an integral part of the project: i) Stakeholder Labs will be set up to involve end-users from the clothing and fishing gear industry (e.g. to match technical requirements), ii) consumer awareness will be raised via e.g. influencer marketing, and iii) the fishing gear industry will be supported as regards to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) on fishing gear litter. New Life Cycle Assessment methods will be developed to better assess the plastic footprint of textile value chains. Finally, integrated methods to assess the biodegradability and ecotoxicity of textile-based microplastics in marine environments will be developed and their standardization initiated.

(* Glaukos is the Greek sea god of fishermen. He was commonly believed to protect the ocean; and so is the ambition of this project by developing innovative alternatives for textiles that are currently polluting our ocean.)
The Glaukos project being within the first half of its runtime, is following its objectives and has achieved some interesting results. Glaukos partners developed a strong joint collaboration and created an open atmosphere for fruitful discussion so, that progress and innovation to provide circular solutions to the textile industry is on track.
Glaukos is following its dissemination and exploitation strategy, while reaching out to the scientific and industrial community, having performed its 1st stakeholder Lab with more than 70 participants.
Glaukos is still in the design phase for polymers which incorporate triggerable biodegradability through specific building blocks and structural elements which respond to environmental and biocatalytic hydrolysis, while maintaining mechanical strength through the retention of crystalline domains throughout the polymer. So far two libraries of polymers were already created, containing a total of 20 different polymers. To pave the way towards the prototypes (a clothing and fishing gear prototype) characterization and development of lab scale spinning process for new biobased polymers started. Newly developed Glaukos biodegradation protocols were applied to the two libraries of polymers to serve in guiding for designing and producing better bio-based eco-designed polymers and coatings. While polymers are being redesigned, development of a compatible bio-recycling enzyme started by enzyme engineering to improve activity and specificity.
The sustainability performance of Glaukos solution for its environmental impacts beyond ‘traditional’ LCA started with the integration of circularity indicators into a broader sustainability assessment.
Significant progress in the development and scale-up of the Glaukos building bock production process was achieved from sugars and industrial waste streams from TRL from 3 to 5, thus de-risking the process of fluctuations of individual substrates availability. The enhancement of the overall process yield is supported by DSP. The ambition is to validate the process in an integrated approach, including product purification, at 1500 L scale until the end of the project.

Pilot scale production of the Glaukos polymers, combining the technical performance with the higher biodegradability will be demonstrated at TRL5 in the coming period of the project.

As of now there is only very limited data available on developing a meltspinning process of biobased polymers, therefore based on the work done in the project a methodology applicable for future development of meltspinning process of such materials will be set up.

A newly adapted biodegradation method specifically designed for seawater, with significantly shorter analysis time, but with high accuracy, was developed within Glaukos, which was further integrated with a comprehensive ecotoxicological assessment. This allowing mitigating potential impact of newly developed polymers/materials on the marine environment, not only for Glaukos but to other (future) projects as well.

A new bio-recycling process for the Glaukos eco-polymer based on enzymes is already identified in the project. The depolymerization reaction will be performed at pre-pilot scale to demonstrate a proof of concept of both bio-recycling and bio-upcycling of the Glaukos polymers.

A methodological guidelines that will be followed for the beyond ‘traditional’ LCA assessments, will be provided at the end of the project. A ‘position’ paper will be made available with the aim to provide a base for decision making that is based on robust metrics that are selected to catch potential trade-offs. Method will be publicly available, tested on the Glaukos case, to provide guidelines for similar projects. The ultimate ambition is to offer policymakers, the industry and other stakeholders advanced methods and tools for the reliable assessment of the textile value chain and its impact on the environment and society.

By the active engagement activities of Glaukos the project will provide targeted recommendations for all stakeholders, including technical advice to the EC and to relevant working groups in the domain.