Textile recycling, a major challenge for our planet
Exponential clothing needs and the resulting harmful consequences mean that textile recycling has become essential to preserving the planet and protecting humanity. Faced with strong pressure on resources and the associated pollution that continues to increase, we must act quickly and find concrete solutions.
Garments are often made of different materials, so recycling can be complex because possibilities vary from one fibre to another. Heavy investment is necessary to develop recycling technologies, as well as a genuine commitment to this approach.
Recycling is a sustainable alternative that allows different and considered manufacturing as part of a circular economy process. In addition, it makes it possible to create new economic activities linked to collecting and sorting, among other things. Almost all used textiles can be recycled and benefit from a second life, so why not make the most of this?
How does textile recycling work?
Recycling textiles makes it possible to avoid the use of virgin fibres and therefore to reduce: the exploitation of raw materials; transport that generates the greenhouse effect; the production of fibres; and the consumption of water and energy, and of chemicals such as dyes, pesticides and insecticides.
Cotton and polyester have many advantageous properties and are therefore extremely popular fibres in the textiles industry. In order to reduce our environmental impact, we are increasingly turning to recycled cotton and recycled polyester in the manufacture of our clothing.
Reducing the use of the planet’s virgin resources, wasting less, and transforming waste (used plastic bottles, used clothes, industrial fibres, etc.) into new clothes is a key issue for us. It is also an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves by taking up the environmental challenge.
Recycled cotton: the ecological impact of cotton cultivation is considerable, in particular because of the consumption of water and insecticides it generates. As cotton is the most widely used natural textile fibre in the world, it is an important resource that fosters the advent of recycled cotton.
The advantages of recycled cotton: recycled cotton has a low environmental footprint and its production consumes far less water and energy than classic cotton.
Cotton recycling involves several stages:
1 – Collecting the fabric (through sorting associations and companies), shredding and transforming it into the fibre state.
2 – Yarn is produced from the recycled cotton thanks to a spinning system.
3 – New garments can then be made in the same way as those from traditional yarn.
Recycled polyester: polyester is a cheap synthetic fibre widely used by fast-fashion brands. The fibre is derived from plastic and made from petroleum that is harmful to the environment and biodiversity. Polyester is polluting throughout its life-cycle because its manufacture requires a significant amount of energy and with each wash, plastic microparticles get dispersed into nature.
The advantages of recycled polyester: firstly, recycled polyester reduces our dependence on materials derived from petrochemistry as it is made from existing materials. Its production consumes less energy than classic polyester and it makes use of waste that would otherwise be incinerated. Polyester can be recycled in several ways. It can be obtained from used clothing, scraps from textile production and plastic bottles.
Plastic bottles are turned into recycled clothing as follows:
1 – Used plastic bottles are collected.
2 – These bottles are crushed into flakes and then granules.
3 – The granules are melted to create yarn for weaving.
What are the differences between pre-consumer and post-consumer materials?
Textiles for recycling are generated from two main sources:
Pre-consumer recycled materials come from industrial waste (manufacturing off-cuts) or recalled products that have not been used by consumers.
Post-consumer recycled materials come from consumer waste, i.e. used and discarded clothing.
What is the official certification? The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) was developed by Control Union Certifications in 2008 and ownership was passed to Textile Exchange on 1 January 2011. GRS is an international, voluntary standard that establishes criteria for third-party certification of recycled content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices and chemical restrictions. The Global Recycled Standard not only certifies the recycled content of a product but also verifies compliance with environmental and social criteria. The GRS (Global Recycled Standard) certificate is issued by Ecocert Greenlife.