The impact of consumption and disposal practices of textiles is not widely known amongst consumers. The responsibility of citizens to correctly dispose of their textile waste, as well as the opportunity for consumers to drive the industry to use recycled content in their products, is substantial. The interrelationship between consumers, brands and municipalities may be key to ensuring the success of closing the loop on textiles.
Barriers and Recommendations:
The growing mountain of post-consumer textiles leads to an increase in the volume of clothing entering sorting facilities, of which a significant percentage is considered non-rewearable. These textiles have diverse potential to be reinserted into the market, but the  collecting and sorting industry first needs to be empowered by all industry actors before it can thrive.
What can you do to help?
Dispose of textiles in separate collection bins identified for this purpose.
Dispose of textiles in a closed bag to avoid cleanliness issues when reaching the sorting facility.
Several brands are already using recycled textiles on a small scale. However, the vast majority of them are not sourcing post-consumer textiles. On the other end of the value chain, there does not seem to be a strong pull from consumers to drive the industry to use recycled content in their products either. The interrelationship between brand offer and consumer demand may be key to the success of recycled content integration.
What can you do to help?
Purchase and/or promote products with recycled content.
Awareness-raising efforts and goal-setting are still not enough to drive a real shift in consumption and production practices.In order to gain momentum that drives significant investment in the collection, sorting and recycling practices of postconsumer textiles, we need to create more urgency to further develop the end-of-use value chain.
What can you do to help?
Demand clear information on recycled textiles as well as textile collection systems from brands and governments.
Concerns with using post-consumer textiles mainly relate to the quality, consistency and availability of these materials. Nevertheless, several brands and manufacturers are already incorporating recycled content in their collections. Recycling technologies are also seeing a surge both in the amount of recyclers as well as the amount of materials processed.
What can you do to help?
Avoid using products that are made of blends from 3 or more materials.
The lack of traceability of most textiles carries the risk of re-introducing textiles into the system which could pose a threat to product safety due to chemical contamination.
What can you do to help?
Demand clear information on the destination of collected textiles and the origin of textiles with recycled content from brands and governments.
The demand, size and pricing parameters for post-consumer textiles' end-markets still present major uncertainties. While a few technologies for certain materials are already at scale, certainty on the future of recycled textiles remains limited. This is due to the relative immaturity of most recycling technologies, as well as brands and consumers’ lack of in-depth understanding of the availability and potential of recycled fibres and fabrics made from post-consumer textiles.
What can you do to help?
Choose textiles with recycled content over virgin alternatives.
To date, recycled fibre and fabrics made from post-consumer textiles are priced higher than virgin sources. This is intimately related to the higher costs required to process post-consumer textiles, as well as the low demand for them.
What can you do to help?
Prioritise sustainability and quality over quantity. Purchase and/or promote products that align with that decision.
What are other sorters doing?
Bobbi Browne, American sorter, tells us more.
Leger des Heils Reshare, the Dutch branch of the organisation, has been collecting and sorting textiles in several municipalities of the Netherlands since 2006. Reshare is actively exploring ways to turn non-rewearable collected textiles into valuable new materials.
Let us know what you’re doing
Or tell us in 6 months
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