Recycling Waste Cotton Cloths for the Isolation of Cellulose Nanocrystals: A Sustainable Approach

Polymers (Basel). 2021 Feb 19;13(4):626. doi: 10.3390/polym13040626.


There is an interest in the sustainable utilization of waste cotton cloths because of their enormous volume of generation and high cellulose content. Waste cotton cloths generated are disposed of in a landfill, which causes environmental pollution and leads to the waste of useful resources. In the present study, cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) were isolated from waste cotton cloths collected from a landfill. The waste cotton cloths collected from the landfill were sterilized and cleaned using supercritical CO2 (scCO2) technology. The cellulose was extracted from scCO2-treated waste cotton cloths using alkaline pulping and bleaching processes. Subsequently, the CNCs were isolated using the H2SO4 hydrolysis of cellulose. The isolated CNCs were analyzed to determine the morphological, chemical, thermal, and physical properties with various analytical methods, including attenuated total reflection-Fourier transform-infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR), field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM), energy-filtered transmission electron microscopy (EF-TEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), thermogravimetric analysis (TGA), and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC). The results showed that the isolated CNCs had a needle-like structure with a length and diameter of 10-30 and 2-6 nm, respectively, and an aspect ratio of 5-15, respectively. Additionally, the isolated CNCs had a high crystallinity index with a good thermal stability. The findings of the present study revealed the potential of recycling waste cotton cloths to produce a value-added product.

Keywords: cellulose nanocrystals; solid waste management; supercritical CO2; sustainability; waste cotton cloths.