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Research and innovation

Stuff4Life is a circular economy company who aims to tackle the key challenges in recycling plastic polymers, and in particular the recycling of polyester workwear.


Nearly 90% of the 33 million workwear garments supplied annually are being disposed of. Currently, companies have the choice between two unsustainable options: sending their end-of-life PPE and workwear to landfill or to be incinerated.

Workwear and PPE are highly functional items of clothing which need to keep people safe, smart, dry and warm, so they can perform. However, this in turn presents challenges in recycling them given their in-built resilience.


Through a collaborative research project, the Net Zero Industry Innovation Centre (NZIIC) and Stuff4Life identified an opportunity to contribute towards the circular economy with workwear and PPE used within industry.

By utilising a chemical recycling process (alkaline hydrolysis) on polyester (PET), Stuff4Life and the NZIIC have been able to recover terephthalic acid (TPA), a monomer which can be used again for the synthesis of polyester (PET).


Stuff4Life secured seed funding from the UK’s leading safety products and services company, Acro, which will support the further research and development of a closed-loop circular economy solution for polyester workwear.

Teesside University will continue to work with Stuff4Life on a chemical recycling demonstration plant, to provide the company with access to academic experts, world-leading research capabilities and state-of-the-art facilities.

The NZIIC run by Teesside University and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)*, aims to support Tees Valley SMEs to develop net zero capabilities and opportunities.

This project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

Polymers no doubt have a hugely important role in the future of energy, resources, food, health and infrastructure. However, we need to decouple from a use and dispose economy to a circular, sustainable one. This project builds on Teesside’s 20 years of experience in research into environmental and sustainable engineering technologies. We are hugely proud to be working with Stuff4Life and Arco to make a real difference to the future of polymer sustainability.

Dr David Hughes, Associate Professor in Teesside University’s School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies

The life expectancy of the humble hi-vis can be relatively short given the harsh environments and sort of tasks these essential garments are exposed to every day. For example, picking up bins, filling holes in the road, mending railways or saving lives at sea.

John Twitchen , Stuff4Life’s Strategy Director

This project is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, securing £300m investment.

The project will make a major contribution to the ambition of the ERDF Competitive Programme 2007-13 and by increasing the numbers and survival of business start ups in the region and increasing business productivity.

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