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  • Writer's pictureNick Edward

Re-using Rope Fibers into NONWOVEN Fabrics

Updated: Apr 21

The nonwoven industry has been witnessing a paradigm shift towards sustainable practices and materials.



In line with this, C-Loop, a maritime company in the field of circular solutions for maritime consumables, is pushing boundaries by exploring new avenues for recycling mooring rope fibers from shipping vessels into nonwoven fabrics.


"Whilst some ropes can be downgraded at end of life and re-used in applications requiring lower tenacity, there are major issues with contamination with mixed polymer compositions.

Nonwoven applications offer the opportunity to reuse mixed fibers into high-grade products in many consumer and industrial applications.


The Project Background

Mooring ropes, used extensively in maritime operations, are composed of durable and high-performance fibers that possess excellent strength and resistance to environmental factors. These ropes are typically comprised of high tensile strength textile fibers such as nylon, polypropylene, high tenacity polyester and UHMWPE (Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene), with global volume estimated to be upwards of 100,000 tones.


Whilst some of these ropes could be downgraded at end of life and re-used in applications requiring lower tenacity, the ability to do this is currently limited, so it is preferable to find alternative applications for the fibers.


Recognizing this issue, C-Loop has partnered up with Nonwovens Innovation Research Institute (NIRI) to run a project that aims to match the technical specification of fiber from retired mooring ropes to the needs of the nonwoven industry to identify target applications.


Overall Approach

Mooring ropes are usually comprised of thermoplastic polymers such as nylon, polyester and UHMWPE, which could be thermally downcycled via re-melting and repalletizing the polymers but there are major issues with contamination and mixed polymer compositions which make this route unattractive.


The main idea is to derive higher value and improved sustainability by recycling the fibers directly without the need for melting and re-extrusion.


NIRI's research and development team has been actively engaged in testing the feasibility of recycling various fibers into nonwoven fabrics. The process involves several crucial steps to transform the fibers into a usable form for the nonwoven industry.


Nonwovens processes are designed to laydown orientated fibers webs and bond them together to form fabrics without the need to make a yarn, thus making the production processes economically attractive. Advanced techniques, such as needle punching or thermal bonding, are utilized to strengthen the integrity of the resulting fabric.


Advantages of Nonwoven Fabrics from Mooring Rope Fibers:

The successful implementation of re-using mooring rope fibers into nonwoven fabrics offers numerous advantages:-

  • Firstly, it provides a sustainable alternative to traditional nonwoven materials derived from virgin sources. By repurposing the mooring rope fibers, C-Loop reduces the demand for raw materials and minimizes the ecological footprint associated with the production of nonwoven fabrics.

  • Secondly, the incorporation of mooring rope fibers enhances the performance characteristics of nonwoven fabrics. The inherent strength and durability of these fibers contribute to improved tear resistance, dimensional stability, and overall product longevity.

  • Moreover, mooring rope fibers can withstand harsh environmental conditions, making the resulting nonwoven fabrics suitable for various applications that require robust materials.

Potential Applications and Market Impact:

The successful integration of mooring rope fibers into nonwoven fabrics opens up a wide array of potential applications across various industries. These fabrics can be utilized in sectors such as automotive, construction, home & furnishing, and geotextiles, among others. Nonwoven products derived from mooring rope fibers may include automotive upholstery, geotextile membranes, insulation materials, and erosion control blankets, to name a few.


This recycling innovation not only reduces waste but also creates new business opportunities. The adoption of recycled mooring rope fibers in the nonwoven industry aligns with the growing consumer demand for sustainable and eco-friendly products. Manufacturers and brands that incorporate these fabrics can differentiate themselves in the market, appealing to environmentally conscious consumers and gaining a competitive edge.


Conclusion

C-Loop's remarkable efforts in testing the re-using of mooring rope fibers into nonwoven fabrics hold significant promise for the nonwoven industry and sustainability as a whole. By diverting mooring ropes from landfills and transforming them into high-performance materials, this innovative approach contributes to the circular economy and fosters a more sustainable future. As this testing progresses, the nonwoven industry can anticipate exciting possibilities, paving the way for a greener and more responsible approach to fabric production.

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