Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 22

INITIATIVES IN

textile

recycling
Circular systems could
monetize textile waste while
helping to save the planet.

T

he textile sustainability landscape is changing.
While textile manufacturers, brands and retailers
tout their use of recycled or sustainable fibers,
mountains of textile waste continue to pile up
in the world's landfills. The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) estimates that in 2017 some 16.9 million
tons of textile waste landed in the U.S. municipal solid
waste (MSW) stream, with about 11.2 million tons
going to landfills.
According to Textile Recovery in the U.S.: A Roadmap
to Circularity, Resource Recycling Systems' (RRS) June
2020 whitepaper, textile waste in the U.S. grew at a rate
of 78 percent (by weight) between 2000 and 2017 and is
outpacing the growth of other types of waste, including
plastics. The RRS report defines textile products as apparel
and non-apparel products including home and hospitality
textiles, commercial textiles, and indoor and outdoor
upholstery fabrics. This includes textile waste generated

by residential, commercial and institutional
sectors, but does not include postindustrial
waste, which is estimated to be from 3 to 6
percent at each stage of production.
Enter the concept of a circular economy.
A circular textiles system is one "in which
clothes, fabrics and fibers are kept at their
highest value during use, and re-enter the
economy after use, never ending up as
waste," according to the Ellen MacArthur
Foundation, a global organization that
champions circular economies.
Although a growing percentage of highend apparel is sold on the secondhand
market, charity shops and donation
bins are bursting at the seams with lessdesirable textiles. According to Best Practices
for Textile Collection in Municipal Recycling
Programs, a report by Eureka Recycling,
a nonprofit zero waste organization
and social enterprise recycler based in
Minneapolis, Minn., only about 20
percent is purchased by consumers. The
remainder is sent to brokers, eventually
becoming shoddy for rags, stuffing or
insulation; or it is shipped overseas to be
sold in secondhand markets in developing
nations, eventually ending up in landfills
or incinerated.
As a result, the concept of repairing,
renewing and upcycling post- and preconsumer textiles to maintain value is
gaining traction. In addition, some tech
companies are creating textile-to-textile
recycling technologies to recover and
monetize that embedded value. But
success depends on collection, sorting and
collaboration with textile manufacturers
and end users.

22 REVIEW NOVEMBER 2020

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Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review November 2020 - 2
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