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Global Change Award is an innovation challenge initiated by H&M Foundation, aiming to make fashion circular.
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Polyester Digester

40 million tons of polyester from the fashion industry ends up in landfill each year. Faced with this fact – what if we could recycle polyester?

Awarded: €250,000 Year: 2016 Company: Ambercycle

The innovation in a nutshell

A recycling technology to make polyester everlasting.

Let us explain

When discussing environmental problems caused by plastic, few people think about clothing.

“At first, we thought we were going to recycle plastic bottles, but then we learned that there is far more plastic in clothing than in packaging,” says Akshay Sethi, recalling how he and Moby Ahmed started working on a solution.

In recent years, polyester has surpassed cotton by far as the material most commonly used for clothing. “All that crude oil used to produce polyester has already been extracted and refined. So we thought it would be cool if we could turn polyester into something of value to break this dependence on oil and introduce a new concept: molecular recycling,” explains Akshay.

One of their biggest challenges is making the technology cheap enough to be sufficiently attractive for textile producers to recycle rather than produce new polyester, which currently costs only about $1 per kilo.

Since winning the Global Change Award

The team has taken their lab scale polyester recycling technology to the demonstration scale, proven the economics of it and are now approaching deployment.

Team members: Moby Ahmed and Akshay Sethi
Country: USA
Innovation name: Ambercycle

“The Global Change Award was invaluable, as it was the first vote of confidence from an external group. Not only did it give us initial funding to get started, but it unlocked the necessary growth capital for us to scale."
Akshay Sethi