In an unusual cotton recycling project, two of the fiber’s crops growing in Australia this year have an unusual additive in the soil – shredded cotton bedsheets and clothing. As part of a “circular economy trial” which could have an impact on reducing greenhouse emissions and increasing carbon in the soil, 20 tons of cotton waste from Sheridan and Thread Together have been put into and onto cotton crops in Gunnedah and Goondiwindi.

“This has been such an innovative project to be part of,” says Jaine Morris, chief operating officer and co-founder of Coreo, which develops circular economy projects in Queensland. “We send to landfill 800,000 tons of textiles in Australia each year, and some of that will be 100 percent cotton. If they can be re-used, that’s a preferable solution, but this is a preferred pathway for absolute end-of-life textiles.”

As well as reducing the quantity of landfill, taking cotton out of the waste stream is likely to reduce methane emissions. Initial projections showed that for every 2.3 tons of waste cotton buried into the field, 2.07 tons of atmospheric CO2 equivalents would be mitigated through the breakdown of these garments in soil rather than landfill. A smaller trial the previous season on Sam Coulton’s Alcheringa farm at Goondiwindi showed that soil friability and microbe activity actually increased in the soil as a result of the added waste cotton, and there were no notable bad effects.

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Author: Ken Eastwood, COSMOS Magazine
Image: COSMOS Magazine