Recycled textile is obtained through recycling and recovering of old clothing and waste fibrous materials through several treatments. Recyclable textiles are mostly found in municipal waste from sources such as old or discarded clothes, tires, footwear, carpets, furniture, and non-durable goods such as sheets and towels. The use of recycled textiles reduces pressure on virgin resources such as wool & cotton, pollution, and water & energy consumption. The essential steps in the textile recycling process involve the donation, collection, sorting, and processing of textiles; followed by subsequent transportation to end-users of used garments, rags or other recovered materials.  

Textile Municipal Waste Generation

An average life of any garment is estimated to be for three years. After the period, they are thrown away as old clothes as a waste; even useful garments are discarded as they are no longer fashionable, or desirable. Every year millions of tons of textiles are thrown away as waste that is landfilled instead of recycling. Textiles waste accounts for around 3% in terms of volume out of overall waste generated. According to U.S. EPA, around 20 million tons of textile municipal solid waste (MSW) was generated as of 2018, totaling around 6-8% of total Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) generated. The rate at which textiles derived from clothing and footwear was 14.2%, at the same time the recovery for sheets and pillowcases was 16.3% for the same year.

Textile Recycling – Minimizing Environmental Impact

Once textile landfilled as a waste, natural fibers can take hundreds of years to decompose and are more prone to release methane and CO2 gas into the environment. More importantly, synthetic textiles are designed not to decompose. Therefore, textile landfilling releases toxic substances in groundwater and soil, leaving adverse effects on the environmental conditions. Textile recycling is not only seen as the initiative to minimize these adverse effects but as a profitable business model as well. 

 According to Textile Recycling Technologies, Coloring and Finishing Methods report, the use of freshwater is expected to increase by 50% till 2030. Similarly, the rate of CO2 emissions is expected to increase by 60% until 2030. The textile waste produced through industrial processes and post-consumer use is subjected to either re-use, incineration, recycling, or landfills. The waste textiles that are re-used remain in the textile flow process, whereas textile waste when incinerated leads to CO2 emissions. The more the waste textile is recycled, the less will be the amount left to incinerate, which means the emissions of CO2 will be reduced considerably

Technology Reforms in Recycling Processes

Currently, mechanical, chemical, and thermal processes are being used for waste textile recycling. Moreover, the material with the scope of recycling is also very less, which leaves out the un-recyclable waste for landfill or incineration. This contributes to soil contamination and CO2 emissions. Advancements in materials that can make them more recyclable and discovering new sustainable material offers an opportunity for future growth. Furthermore, technological advancements in the recycling process and innovation in new materials are anticipated to offer lucrative growth opportunities for the growth of the recycled textile industry.

Awareness among consumers as well as manufacturers

The consumer awareness regarding recycling of textile products has increased owing to several efforts by government and non-profit organizations. Moreover, the collection amount has also increased in the past few years owing to efforts from several non-government organizations (NGO). Thus, increased awareness has led to a significant increase in waste textile donation and collection. The use of recycled textiles offers various cost savings for the manufacturer. The cost of recycled textiles is far lower than the virgin raw material. Moreover, virgin material is sometimes not readily available which delays the production process impacting the overall manufacturing cost, thus, switching to recycled textile benefits. Furthermore, lower and easier processing is required for recycled textiles such as wool, cotton, and polyester, which further fosters the growth of the recycled textile industry.

Sustainable agenda in Textile Industry    

The society is becoming more aware of the hazards associated with clothes sending to landfill. As a result trend for slow fashion is drawing significant attention to the interplay of clothing and sustainability. This is because of fast fashion industry generates relatively high pollution and a substantial negative impact on climate change. Consumers are embracing the change by adopting clothing brands that last longer and demonstrate commitment to reducing their climate change impact.