Scientists to recycle textile and leather wastes

By Chris Mgidu and Ronald Njoroge, Xinhua
Kenyan scientists in collaboration with other international partners are developing a textile and leather recycling plant that hopes to recycle waste generated from these sectors.

   The initiative was born out of the need to reduce the growing heaps of wastes that has made solid waste management a problem in Kenya.
   Expanding urban areas have constrained the ability of local authorities to effectively deal with the waste.
   Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) research scientist Joseph Kinyanjui told Xinhua in Nairobi that by the end of 2013, the partnership hopes to have developed at least two products.
   "We are currently testing the durability of the final products," he said on the sidelines of the National Science and Innovation Conference on May 19. The week-long event provided a platform for scientists and researchers to showcase their latest innovations.
   The recycling project involves the shredding of textile and footwear products, with the end result being individual fibres. These fibres will then be used to make eco-friendly eggs trays, materials for making pillows, pads, sound-proofing and insulating materials among other products.
   The collaboration will develop unwoven fabric made directly from fibre rather than from yarn.
   The researcher said the project aims at recycling at least 50 per cent of all textile waste generated annually, so as to find a sustainable solution of waste management. However, in order to achieve the goal, communities will have to be educated on the importance of recycling to enable them participate effectively.
   "This is a new concept and so it will take a while before the public fully embraces a textile and leather recycling economy," Kinyanjui said.
   Initially, household waste will be collected at designated points such as supermarkets. "We hope to give those who bring the waste an incentive," he said.
   According to KIRDI, the country produces about 83.5 million kgs of the waste annually. Globally, the figure stands at approximately 60 billion kgs.
   Kinyanjui said the project seeks to collect waste that originates from the manufacturing of products locally as well as post-consumer waste. Kenya is already a big importer of used textile and leather products from the developed world.
   "Unfortunately, these products don't have a long useful life and the waste inevitably ends up in the country's dump sites," he said. Kenya also has a small textile manufacturing industry.
   When fully implemented, the project will help the country's quest to achieve environmental sustainability. According to the research institute, production of a kilogramme of textile produces 15 kg of carbon dioxide.
   The rapidly growing population coupled with increasing disposable incomes has made the magnitude of generated waste to become an environment concern. The changing fashion tastes also contributes to increasing wastes.
   A common method of dealing with the waste is through incineration. Unfortunately, woolen garments produce methane which contributes to greenhouse gases emissions, while synthetic fibres do not decompose.
   The project will also have a positive contribution to the economic development of the country. "The project also has the potential of creating many jobs as raw materials and market for the recycled waste is readily available," he said.
   Once the plant takes off, textile and leather will join plastic as a product commonly recycled in Kenya. Hundreds of people make a living from the plastic recycling industry as raw material is readily available.
  "We aim at emulating the plastic sector," said Kinyanjui.
   Another partner involved in the project is Kenyan based non- governmental organization, Dove International, which has already begun an initiative to collect textiles and footwear for recycling.