Procotex: A new life for ballistic vests

Procotex offers a recycling solution for bullet-proof vests

50 years of recycling expertise

The Belgian company Procotex Corporation has been at the forefront of sustainability since it was founded in 1970, recycling fibres for use in a wide variety of industries.

Apart from trading and processing flax fibres for various industrial sectors such as the spinning industry, the paper industry, the sanitary world, and the composites industry, the family-owned firm centres its activities on recycling both natural, synthetic and technical textile waste.

Through its recycling operations, the firm has become a global sustainable recycled fibre supplier across diverse applications, markets, materials, and product lines. And with the 15,000 tonnes of synthetic fibres, 8,000 tonnes of natural fibres, 6,000 tonnes of flax fibres, and 2,000 tonnes of technical fibres it recycles each year, the numbers speak for themselves.

Reusing ballistic vest materials

Through its vast experience in recycling fibres, Procotex has developed very specialised expertise and identified sectors that use materials that can have a second life. In particular, the firm has taken special interest in the reuse of those employed in ballistic equipment, understanding that as bullet-proof vests become out-of-date, they must be replaced to ensure the users’ safety.

A recycling solution for bullet-proof vests
Credit: Procotex

Procotex began offering a safe and sustainable solution to take advantage of the materials inside of outmoded ballistic vests, realising that the para-aramid fibres inside of these vests offer a great source of materials that can be employed for numerous other applications.

The company says it aims to create value for its partners within police authorities, the military, and other government entities, as well as body armour manufacturers, by offering a safe and environmentally friendly solution to demilitarise body armour and prepare it for these new applications.

Recycling the sustainable way

To take advantage of the precious materials inside of ballistic vests, Procotex deconstructs the vests it receives, collects the para-aramid and recycles it through a meticulous recycling procedure.

Once the process is completed, the company issues its partners with a demilitarisation certification, offering them an environmentally positive recycling solution and saving them costs on landfill and other possible disposal options.

The Belgian fibres firm also has the capacity to collect para-aramid manufacturing waste to transform filaments, yarns and other remnants into a versatile fibre, which is then finely milled into a powder form.

In addition to these processes, the company has introduced a solvolysis process for laminated para-aramid materials that is able effectively remove resins from these materials.

Moreover, Procotex also has the capacity to recycle bullet-proof vests made from both para-aramid and polyethylene (PE), separating the two materials mechanically and eliminating the PE layers on the material in order to get to and recycle the para-aramid.  

Sustainability is in the company’s DNA

“Our goal: to be a top global company for sustainable fibres, to drive innovation in people’s lives and culture at a cheaper price than virgin (less sustainable) fibres,” says Procotex on its website. This mission is backed up by the firm’s pursuit of quality and continuous R&D to improve upon its processes and enable what could not be recycled before, to become recyclable.

Apart from its production and recycling processes, Procotex walks the sustainability talk in other aspects of its operations. One third of the firm’s energy consumption needs are met by a photovoltaic electricity power station on its site in Dottignies, Belgium and its site in Linolitas, Lithuanian, for example.

Procotex also participates in several official programmes and holds a number of environmental certificates, including EcoVadis and European Flax, which guarantees the traceability of premium linen fibres grown in Europe.

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Featured image credit: Unsplash

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