Ground breaking trial returns cotton textile waste to cotton fields

A cotton farm just outside Goondiwindi in Queensland 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.

Cotton harvesting
Image: Cotton Australia

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 by soil scientist Dr Oliver Knox of UNE.

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.

The field is being prepared for planting the next cotton crop in October 2021, and it is hoped the fabrics will break down in the soil, increase microbial activity, lock in carbon, and provide cover to improve soil moisture.

The trial will be completed by cotton harvest in early-mid 2022, with initial results expected shortly after, although it is expected the real benefits for cotton yield and long-term soil health may not be known for many years.

The shredded cotton products are mulched into the soil

“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,” said Cotton Australia’s Brooke Summers.

“We need to get smarter about how we reduce and manage waste,” said Dr Oliver Knox from the University of New England, who is supported by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation.

“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.”

“In this day and age, we should be part of the solution for taking cotton right back through the system,” said local farmer and Goondiwindi Cotton owner, Sam Coulton.

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

You can find the full story, including more information about the project and farmer Sam Coulton’s involvement at Cotton Australia.

Maddison Langley

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