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New Zealand’s Game-changer: Textile Waste to Roads

Image credits: wellington.govt.nz

Wellington City is once again taking the lead in the country’s circular economy initiative. Its council started a trial recently using textiles as a performance additive in asphalt on roads – a first for New Zealand.

Essentially it is it’s a two-in-one solution. On one end, there is the problem of textile waste and on the other the concern for better roads. While the unique methodology is still on trial,  its implications are big. The textile-waste-to-road initiative has the potential to be a gamechanger in the country’s circular economy and net-zero goals by 2050.

Indeed, textile waste is one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing waste streams, their outsized impact relative to weight makes them an ideal focus for carbon reduction activities. Improving the performance of roads, creating jobs and economic opportunity onshore while also reducing waste and emissions is a win-win-win scenario, says Mayor Andy Foster of Wellington.

He disclosed that they are supporting organisations, projects and initiatives that reflect a circular economy as part of the Te Atakura – First to Zero goal and a strong ambition to reduce New Zealand’s collective footprint on the planet.

This trial is a perfect example of cross-collaboration and stewardship focused on improving sustainability for future generations. We’re proud to support the private sector in this leading-edge work, which we hope will have applications to make a difference across New Zealand and then globally.

– Andy Foster, Mayor, Wellington

The used textile may look harmless but it can be an added burden to the planet. When consumers throw away used clothing, it can be both a waste of money and resources. It can take as long as over 200 years for clothing materials to decompose properly in a landfill. Worse, during this decomposition process, textiles give off greenhouse methane gas and leach toxic chemicals (e.g. dyes) into the soil and the groundwater.

However, used clothing and textile can be processed to contribute to a circular system. Cellulose, an extract of used textile, can be used to enhance roads. It’s a timely additive in asphalt roading mix that will help it stabilise. What’s more, it can improve the workability, strength and homogeneity of the final road.

The private sector has been leading the co-design and building of a national circular economy for clothing and textiles in Aotearoa. As they explore potential applications for waste textile fibre in New Zealand, this initiative quickly sparked industry interest and funding.

Meanwhile, the area has an estimated 220,000 tonnes of potential fibre in the form of textiles going to landfills in New Zealand every year. The Terrace between Ghuznee and Buller Streets in Wellington will be the first section of the road trialled with the new product. It’ll be laid with ‘Strength-Tex’ which incorporates 500kgs (half a tonne) of used textiles, conserving approximately 11,725kgs C02e (carbon equivalent) and 568,500 litres of H20 (water).

New Zealand has been making the most of technology to fight the ill effects of climate change. Though the textile-waste-to-road initiative is not as high-tech, the country has been keen on deploying digital solutions for sustainability. Recently, Wellington’s experts expressed the need to rely on location-based digital technologies to maintain its sustainable cities. In its Digital Twin, the country’s capital city used the Internet of Things (IoT) to be able to manage the ill effects of a changing Earth better as reported on OpenGov Asia.

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