A review on Textile Recycling Practices and Challenges
January 8, 2023

A review on Textile Recycling Practices and Challenges

J.P. Juanda-Labayen et al., Textiles, 2022, 2, 174–188

Keywords: textile waste; reuse and recycling; municipal solid waste; composting; sustainability


The expansion of clothing and textile industry and the fast fashion trend among consumers have caused a rapid global increase in textile waste in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream. Worldwide, 75% of textile waste is landfilled, while 25% is recycled or reused. Landfilling of textile waste is a prevalent option that is deemed unsustainable. Promoting an enhanced diversion of textile waste from landfills demands optimized reuse and recycling technologies. Reuse is the more preferred option compared with recycling. Various textile reuse and recycling technologies are available and progressively innovated to favor blended fabrics. This paper aims to establish reuse and recycling technologies (anaerobic digestion, fermentation, composting, fiber regeneration, and thermal recovery) to manage textile waste. Improved collection systems, automation of sorting, and discovering new technologies for textile recycling remains a challenge. Applying extended producer responsibility (EPR) policy and a circular economy system implies a holistic consensus among major stakeholders.

1. Introduction

Population growth, improvement of living standards, an increasing assortment of textile materials, and the decreasing life cycle time of textile products contributed to global fiber consumption that generates a significant amount of post-industrial and post-consumer fiber waste [1,2]. Globalization has made the apparel industry produce more clothing at lower costs, and many consumers have adapted a ‘fast fashion’ trend that considers clothing to be a disposable product [3]. Fast fashion characterized by mass production, variety, agility, and affordability has brought about a surge of apparel consumption [4].

The rising cost associated with textile manufacturing in terms of energy, raw materials, and waste management is putting pressure on businesses across the globe. The textile industry accounts for about 10% of total carbon emissions [5] and has been identified as the fifth largest contributor of carbon emissions [6,7]. In this regard, it is crucial to understand that 20th-century approaches in meeting 21st-century demands are not affordable for sustainable development [8]. It is essential to consider the efficient use and management of natural resources by reducing the raw material consumption through reuse and recycling of textile products regarded as waste, which would offer a sustainable approach for textile waste management. To improve the current behavior of clothing consumption and waste generation, an environmentally and financially sound long-term national program should be established [9].

Globally, approximately 75% of textile waste is disposed of in landfills, 25% is reused or recycled, and less than 1% of all textile is recycled back into clothing [10,11]. In this respect, advancing reuse and recycling technologies for textile waste in diverting waste from landfill is crucial. More importantly, closed-loop recycling of fabric is highly promoted. There have been several reinforced global actions integrating many expert stakeholders addressing both economic and environmental challenges that the clothing industry faces; among them are the Textile Exchange, Council for Textile Recycling, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, and the Boston Consulting Group, among others. For instance, Textile Exchange commits to reducing CO2 emissions by 30% from textile fibers and material production by 2030 and fosters the role of the circular economy as a powerful instrument for mitigating impacts and contributing to the urgent need for climate action [11]. Hence, textile reuse and recycling are vital in promoting this innovative act. This paper determines the existing textile waste reuse and recycling technologies and the status of textile waste generation and management in some leading economies.

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