2022 journal article

Strategies and progress in synthetic textile fiber biodegradability

SN APPLIED SCIENCES, 4(1).

By: J. Egan & S. Salmon‚ÄČ

author keywords: Biodegradable; Enzyme; Polymer; Textile; Sustainable; Waste
Source: Web Of Science
Added: January 3, 2022

Abstract The serious issue of textile waste accumulation has raised attention on biodegradability as a possible route to support sustainable consumption of textile fibers. However, synthetic textile fibers that dominate the market, especially poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), resist biological degradation, creating environmental and waste management challenges. Because pure natural fibers, like cotton, both perform well for consumer textiles and generally meet certain standardized biodegradability criteria, inspiration from the mechanisms involved in natural biodegradability are leading to new discoveries and developments in biologically accelerated textile waste remediation for both natural and synthetic fibers. The objective of this review is to present a multidisciplinary perspective on the essential bio-chemo-physical requirements for textile materials to undergo biodegradation, taking into consideration the impact of environmental or waste management process conditions on biodegradability outcomes. Strategies and recent progress in enhancing synthetic textile fiber biodegradability are reviewed, with emphasis on performance and biodegradability behavior of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) as an alternative biobased, biodegradable apparel textile fiber, and on biological strategies for addressing PET waste, including industrial enzymatic hydrolysis to generate recyclable monomers. Notably, while pure PET fibers do not biodegrade within the timeline of any standardized conditions, recent developments with process intensification and engineered enzymes show that higher enzymatic recycling efficiency for PET polymer has been achieved compared to cellulosic materials. Furthermore, combined with alternative waste management practices, such as composting, anaerobic digestion and biocatalyzed industrial reprocessing, the development of synthetic/natural fiber blends and other strategies are creating opportunities for new biodegradable and recyclable textile fibers. Article Highlights Poly(lactic acid) (PLA) leads other synthetic textile fibers in meeting both performance and biodegradation criteria. Recent research with poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) polymer shows potential for efficient enzyme catalyzed industrial recycling. Synthetic/natural fiber blends and other strategies could open opportunities for new biodegradable and recyclable textile fibers.