Approved by curator
Added: Aug 05, 2022
Last edited: Apr 14, 2023
In order to contribute to a solution to the growing volume of textile waste that is currently discarded in the Atacama Desert, in Chile, the company Ecofibra transforms daily tons of post-consumer garments into thermal and acoustic insulation panels, which can also be recycled once they reach the end of their life cycle.
The Atacama Desert is one of the largest landfills in Latin America. Every year, around 59,000 tons of used clothing are imported into Chile from other countries in order to be resold in the local market. However, of this volume, it is estimated that around 40,000 tons are not sold and are disposed of in clandestine landfills. It is estimated that more than 300 hectares of the Atacama Desert are covered with textile waste, which leads to multiple problems. The environmental impact of this illegal landfill is associated with GHG emissions, chemical leaching, and the release of microfibers into the environment. One of the most worrying problems for the region is the uncontrolled incineration of textiles, which, according to Edgard Ortega, in charge of the environmental office of the municipality where the landfill is located, generates at least "an annual fire of large proportions that lasts between 2 and 10 days”.
To prevent textile waste from reaching landfills, Ecofibra uses discarded post-consumer garments to transform them into insulation for housing construction. To manufacture the product, first of all, the garments are classified by type of material, and zippers, buttons, and other non-textile trims are eliminated. Then the textile is shredded and compacted. The result of this process is a "mat" (see image) that can be adapted to multiple uses.
-The product obtained has an optimal thermal insulation capacity, which contributes to the reduction of energy consumption in both heating and air conditioning. In addition, the properties of the panels are very similar to those of other non-recycled products on the market, which makes them a profitable and competent product.
-The panels can be recycled again once they reach the end of their life cycle.
- EcoFibra is currently close to processing eight tons per day (on average), and they project that they will receive about 150 tons of textile waste per month at their second plant located in Santiago de Chile, Chile.
-The company also participates in social projects and works in collaboration with Chilean companies to recycle their uniforms and generate panels for homes in vulnerable communities.
Image courtesy of Franklin Zepelda, Ecofibra CEO.