Evaluation of post-consumer cellulosic textile waste for chemical recycling based on cellulose degree of polymerization and molar mass distribution

Helena Wedin, Marta Lopes, Herbert Sixta, Michael Hummel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study is to improve the understanding of which end-of-life cellulosic textiles can be used for chemical recycling according to their composition, wear life and laundering—domestic versus service sector. For that purpose, end-of-life textiles were generated through laboratorial laundering of virgin fabrics under domestic and industrial conditions, and the cellulose content and its intrinsic viscosity and molar mass distribution were measured in all samples after two, 10, 20, and 50 laundering cycles. Results presented herein also address the knowledge gap concerning polymer properties of end-of-life man-made cellulosic fabrics—viscose and Lyocell. The results show that post-consumer textiles from the home consumer sector, using domestic laundering, can be assumed to have a similar, or only slightly lower, degree of polymerization than the virgin textiles (−15%). Post-consumer textiles from the service sector, using industrial laundering, can be assumed to have a substantially lower degree of polymerization. An approximate decrease of up to 80% of the original degree of polymerization can be expected when they are worn out. A higher relative decrease for cotton than man-made cellulosic textiles is expected. Furthermore, in these laboratorial laundering trials, no evidence evolved that the cellulose content in blended polyester fabrics would be significantly affected by domestic or industrial laundering. With respect to molar mass distribution, domestic post-consumer cotton waste seems to be the most suitable feedstock for chemical textile recycling using Lyocell-type processes, although a pre-treatment step might be required to remove contaminants and lower the intrinsic viscosity to 400–500 ml/g.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5067-5075
JournalTextile Research Journal
Issue number23-24
Early online date13 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cotton
  • degree of polymerization
  • domestic laundering
  • industrial laundering
  • Lyocell
  • viscose


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