Biodegradable textile? Yes, please!

Materials and Products

Biodegradability study and verification is currently an important topic also for the textile sector, both for research and production activities. The possibility to carry out specific instrumental analysis for biodegradability assessment represents a fundamental tool for who wants to valorise their products from an environmental impact point of view. Aware of the importance of offering a service in response to market needs, Centrocot has recently acquired the equipment to perform biodegradability assessment and it has set up a dedicated laboratory at the new operational headquarters of Malpensa Fiere.

Valorization of a textile product can, indeed must, also go through the study and optimization of its possible end-of-life scenarios. In this context, evaluate and verify the possibility to recycle a textile material or product indeed it is one of the most relevant aspects, but it is not the only one. Recently, researchers and companies are focusing on textile biodegradability, so the ability of an end-of-life textile material to degrade to the point of being almost completely destroyed when introduced into the environment.

Biodegradation process can be studied and measured by laboratory tests that use specific methods and instruments. Originally designed for plastic materials, those for packaging in particular, these techniques can be also extended to other materials such as textiles. The most common analytical method for assessing biodegradability is the one based on the measurement of CO2 (carbon dioxide) produced when a material is biodegrading. Instruments that are dedicated to this kind of tests are called respirometers and they can be used to analyse samples of different nature and can simulate different biodegradation conditions. In fact, given that biodegradation processes take place in the natural environment, the specific conditions of laboratory analysis can be many: from contact with the soil to composting, from burial to contact with water (fresh or salt).

Aware of the importance of biodegradability tests for textile sector, Centrocot has recently implemented a new laboratory for the biodegradability study. Located at the new Malpensa Fiere headquarters in Busto Arsizio, the new laboratory is equipped with a 12-channels respirometer which can be configured in different ways to respond to different requests of analysis. In fact, Centrocot’s equipment can study biodegradation in composting conditions, in contact with fresh water and in contact with salt water. The study of biodegradation in composting conditions is of particular interest when considering the possibility of conferring textile waste no longer to the undifferentiated fraction, that is usually destroyed, but to the organic fraction that is treated in composting plants and then turned into a compost, a material useful for cultivation. The possibility to demonstrate biodegradability in composting condition would allow textile waste valorisation since it would become a product (compost) suitable for other production sectors uses. Biodegradability analysis in water can be of high interest when considering microfibers and microplastics release in aquatic environment. Verify that a textile material can degrade in water would allow to identify this material as having a low impact on the aquatic environment as even in the event that the textile releases microfibres/microplastics, these pollutants would be degraded in a short time.

But the new Centrocot’s laboratory for textiles biodegradability study has also another aim: to develop and validate analytical methods specific for textile sectors. To date, in fact, to carry out the tests described above, reference standards for plastic packaging are used, since there are no standards for textiles. Hence the desire to develop dedicated methods that in future could represent a starting point for new reference standards. Finally, thanks to its testing activities, Centrocot will generate specific know-how for textile biodegradability for the different textile materials available on the market, which differ not only in fiber composition but also in the chemical treatments presents.




For more info, please contact:

  • Omar Maschi, PhD

Multisectoral Research and Innovation


Author: Omar Maschi

Multisectoral Research and Innovation Dept.