Cotton textile waste returned to field as soil improver

Grain Central June 17, 2021

Goondiwindi farmer, Sam Coulton, has spread shredded cotton textile products on his fields to test their capacity to improve soil health.

A COTTON farm just outside Goondiwindi on the New South Wales-Queensland border is the site of a ground breaking trial to test whether shredded cotton products could offer benefits to cotton soil health, and a scalable solution to textile waste.

The project, under the guidance of circular economy specialists Coreo, is a partnership between the Queensland Government, Goondiwindi Cotton, Sheridan, Cotton Australia, Worn Up and Cotton Research and Development Corporation-supported soil scientist Dr Oliver Knox of the University of New England.

Around two tonnes of cotton textiles, garments and end-of-life State Emergency Service coveralls have been processed at Worn Up in Sydney, transported to “Alcheringa” farm, and spread onto a cotton field by local farmer, Sam Coulton.

It is hoped the fabrics will break down in the soil, increase microbial activity, lock in carbon and provide cover to improve soil moisture.

Projections show 2250 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2 e) into the atmosphere will be mitigated through the breakdown of these garments in soil, rather than going to landfill.

“Returning cotton garments to the farms on which they began would completely close the loop on a cotton product, providing a win for brands, retailers and consumers looking for circular solutions, and a possible benefit to our farmers, their soils and the planet.  It’s very exciting,” Cotton Australia’s Brooke Summers said.

The trial will be completed by cotton harvest in early 2022, with initial results expected shortly after.

“We need to get smarter about how we reduce and manage waste.  The potential to divert clothing from landfill, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and potentially feed our soils could help deliver more sustainable practices in multiple sectors,” Dr Knox said.

Textile waste is a major problem for communities and supply chains globally, with the latest Australian estimate showing approximately 85 per cent of apparel is sent to landfill at end of life.

Mr Coulton said being part of the solution was very positive.

“We grow it here and we should be able to bury it here with positive environmental and economic impact on the local community.”

Cotton textile waste could be a valuable soil improver.

Source: Cotton Australia




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