The uptake of recycled post-consumer textiles depends on the availability of textile-to-textile recycling technologies, their feedstock requirements as well as the market demand for materials containing recycled content. Financial and technical barriers need to be overcome to ensure recyclers can live up to their full potential.
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?
Assess availability of collected sorted post-consumer textiles in your region.
Partner with collectors/sorters to test their materials and assess potential applications.
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?
Communicate recycling challenges to brands and manufacturers to encourage design for recyclability.
Set clear specifications on material grades suitable for your recycling process and make this available to collectors, sorters, manufacturers and brands.
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?
Set your own or align with industry-wide targets and commitments to close the textiles loop.
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?
Source automated sorted textiles per material type to ensure reliable and accurate input to your processes
For mechanical recycling, source colour sorted PCT as homogeneous as possible to avoid extra dyeing.
Assess the potential of blending post-consumer with post-industrial textiles waste.
Facilitate non-sensitive knowledge sharing as much as possible, to leverage the expertise in the recycling field and inform others on the materials’ potential and value.
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?
Assess benefits and costs of certifying your recycled material with a (voluntary) certification and/ or standard.
Build trusted relationships with partners and suppliers, while establishing clear agreements and expectations on the material supplied.
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?
Invest in and/or lead the development and scaling of recycling technologies for pure or blended materials by partnering with brands, manufacturers or other relevant organisations.
Assess funding opportunities to innovate or implement existing hardware and non-compatible label removal solutions.
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?
Validate quality and performance of recycled products for determined product applications.
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