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Textile Recycling: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

Textile Recycling: What Is It & Why Is It Important?

In today’s mission to reduce, reuse and recycle, you may have heard of textile recycling. It forms part of the global green movement and aims to limit landfill saturation and other detrimental environmental effects. Studies show that the contemporary fashion industry is to blame for roughly 10% of all carbon emissions. Microfibres and plastic also threaten salt- and freshwater habitats. 

This can raise questions such as what is textile recycling, and why is textile recycling important? Textile consumption or so-called “fast fashion” refers to the rapid rate at which people produce, buy and discard clothing. In 2020, the European Parliament estimated the annual textile usage for one person required 400m2 of land, 9m3 of water and 391kg of raw materials, with a carbon impact of 270kg. This article explores how textile recycling works and what businesses can do to take responsibility for their textile waste.

What is textile recycling?

Similar to the repurposing of other materials, such as plastics, wood and glass, textile recycling refers to the processing of waste textiles in order to create new items. Textile recycling operations use both discarded clothes and industrial cutoffs and scraps. The methods to repurpose textiles include mechanical and chemical processes.

How the textile recycling process works

Understanding textile recycling and what happens during the process relies on a grasp of the different steps involved. It starts with collection and sorting, before shredding and washing the materials. A second round of sorting and carding follows, which involves aligning the fibres, after which the actual weaving and repurposing takes place. 

Below is a step-by-step explanation of what happens in textile recycling:

  • Collection takes place through charity shops, collection banks and industrial recycling initiatives.
  • Sorting groups textiles into reusable clothes — which are sent to places such as second-hand retailers, nonprofits and shelters, rags and fibres. People also separate the different materials, such as cotton, polyester and wool, as well as colours to avoid recolouring with harmful chemicals. Designated bins help people to sort textiles by hand.
  • Textile recyclers wash or dry clean the sorted fabrics before shredding them.
  • Shredding is the final step in the preparation process and entails cutting fabrics up into tiny pieces.
  • Repurposing refers to the spinning or weaving of fabric pieces. During this stage, discarded textiles become something new.

Why do textiles need shredding before recycling?

Shredding is a crucial stage in textile recycling as it protects the integrity of companies and brands against the irregular use of their uniforms or logos. It also streamlines the spinning and weaving stages by separating various fibres and cutting them into consistent sizes.

Are there any textiles that can’t be recycled?

Unfortunately, not all fabrics can be repurposed. Some material types and conditions do not support textile-to-textile recycling.

  • Blended fabrics may consist of a mix of materials with different fibre characteristics. It's tricky to separate these fibres and uniformly transform them.
  • Contaminated items with irremovable stains or mould cannot be recycled. Sometimes, these contaminants are harmful to health and the environment and the only option may be to incinerate them.
  • Clothes with trimmings such as sequins or beads are too complicated for textile recycling. Removing these trimmings is too labour intensive. As new technologies develop, we may be able to recycle these items in the future.
  • Low-quality textiles often disintegrate during the textile recycling process and are not suitable for reuse or repurposing.

Wondering what happens to textile recycling in these instances? To avoid these fabrics ending up in landfills, they are often burned and sometimes used in incineration processes that produce energy.

Why it’s important for us to recycle textiles

The fashion industry is a major contributor to global warming. Textile decomposition, especially that of synthetics, takes centuries and releases greenhouse gases during the process. Harmful waste products such as dyes can also seep into the ground and poison the environment. Clothes and pieces of fabric that end up at rubbish dumps accelerate the prevailing landfill crisis and escalate climate change. 

Textile-to-textile recycling considerably reduces negative environmental impacts and preserves valuable resources such as water and energy. Reusable donations to nonprofits help those in need. Reuse also limits the effects of already overflowing landfills, which are costly to maintain and one of the largest causes of climate change.

Partner with a premier textile recycling partner today 

In the global drive to achieve net-zero emissions, businesses are taking responsibility for the sourcing and binning of textiles. This applies to everything from uniforms to branded items for facilities and events, including tablecloths, napkins, bedding and merchandise, such as banners, t-shirts and caps for fundraising initiatives. By ensuring these are shredded and recycled, companies help to support international and local green agendas.

Partner with Shredall SDS Group to tick all the boxes for textile-to-textile recycling. As a UK leader in textile recycling, we maintain high standards and ensure regulatory compliance to keep your information secure. We are partnered with prominent companies that highly value trustworthiness and high-standard compliance when it comes to the protection of intellectual property.

One of these, a London-based fashion and licence design, sales and manufacturing organisation for top brands and high-street stores, had to destroy 500 boxes of faulty clothing with a value of £250,000. Shredall safely collected the boxes and securely destroyed the garments while safeguarding and ensuring brand exclusivity.

We used the latest technology in shredding the textiles. These were then baled and recycled in line with European compliance standards. Shredall addresses and meets client needs in terms of speed, efficacy and confidentiality. In addition, our processes are all environmentally friendly, helping to fulfil our mission for a greener future.

Contact Shredall SDS Group today for a customised quote for your business. We cover all industries and operate throughout the UK.

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