Sanitisation chamber to support clothing and PPE reuse

The UWS project team (left to right: Dr Mohammed Yaseen, Dr Mostafa Rateb, Dr Emanuel Epelle, Dr Luc Rolland, and Anthony Burns COO of ACS (image credit: Elaine Livingstone).

A technology to sanitise clothing without the water-intensive drawbacks of traditional methods is being publicised as a useful way to advance the reuse of items like clothing and PPE.

The patented technology – created by University of the West of Scotland (UWS) and start-up firm Advanced Clothing Solutions (ACS) – will support the development of a state-of the-art ‘sanitisation chamber’ – designed by researchers at UWS. The chamber will be installed at ACS’s automated fashion fulfilment facility on the outskirts of Glasgow. Public body Scottish Enterprise will financially support the project.

Dr Mohammed Yaseen, of UWS’s School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences, said: “This revolutionary technology has real potential to disrupt the fashion and textile industry and offers huge environmental benefits, which could see a significant reduction in landfill waste from clothing.”

The group said the system had been trialled and “shown to effectively kill a vast range of germs and viruses, such as E. coli, S. aureus and coronavirus, which can remain on clothing and fashion accessories”. It is now being trialled on PPE, to assess its performance in making it safe to reuse.

Anthony Burns, Chief Operating Officer of ACS Clothing, said that “introducing circularity and reuse of PPE has presented an interesting but not insurmountable environmental opportunity.”

“Every piece of PPE presents a sustainability and recycling challenge. Many items were initially deemed single-use because knowledge of sterilising these items wasn’t available. With sterilisation technology, we hope to reverse much of this single-use problem.”

Dr Yaseen added: “The eco-friendly solution uses ozone gas to decontaminate fabrics, which subsequently helps to reduce the use of water and avoid negative environmental impacts from detergent use.

The partnership between UWS and ACS was initiated through Innovate UK’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. “Our KTP Associate, Dr Emmanuel Epelle, has been central to the project’s success,” said Dr Yaseen.

Glasgow-based ACS prolongs the life of used or damaged garments for some of the country’s biggest brands, through its sustainable textile repair, refurbishment, and cleaning service.

Forty percent of clothing purchased online is returned, with less than half of it being resold and the remainder ending up at landfill sites, or being burned. Through extending the lifetime of a garment by three months, its carbon footprint is reduced by 10% and a pre-owned purchase, or a rented garment, saves 1kg in waste, 3,040 litres of water, and 22kg CO2. ACS clean around 45,000 garments each week.

The group says the technology, which is the result of a knowledge exchange project, through UWS’s KTP programme, could help to drastically reduce landfill waste from clothing, textiles, and PPE products – offering far-reaching environmental benefits.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are a flagship programme from Innovate UK and form a collaboration between a business, an academic institution, and a graduate. The graduate is employed by the academic institution as a ‘KTP Associate’ who works full-time at the business involved, under the guidance of an expert academic team. This three-way partnership forges strong ties between industry and academia and helps to deliver solutions to real-world problems.