According to a report released by the French National Institute for the Circular Economy (INEC), there are technical constraints on the recycling of textiles.
INEC evaluated the current economic cycle of the textile and apparel industry, pointing out the existing limitations of textile recycling and stressing the need to predict the availability of recycled materials from the initial design stage.
The report shows that by category:
Cotton fabric recycling technology is quite mature, but the quality of recycled fiber is not as good as that of virgin fiber, resulting in the use of recycled fiber in new garments can only reach 20%;
Wool can be reused many times;
Polyester polymers can be reconverted into new fibers;
The polyester fiber is special in its case. The main component of the recycled polyester fiber garment is the plastic bottle. The whole conversion process consumes a lot of energy.
On the whole, the biggest challenge in the textile and garment industry is the recycling and recycling of blended fabrics. The difficulty in recycling is to separate a variety of different fibers. Blended fabrics are mostly used in fast fashion brands.
INEC pointed out that it is a good choice to use sustainable fabrics from the beginning, such as the use of bio-cotton, sel (cellulose), linen and other more environmentally friendly fibers to replace ordinary cotton, rayon and other fibers.
On the other hand, the textile and apparel industry should adopt a new approach from the source of production. “It is necessary to invest heavily in research and development of recycling technology so that recycled materials can have the same value as new materials. Design choices can significantly reduce the environmental impact of clothing while improving circulation.”
Currently, for every piece of clothing produced, 20 to 30% of the trim is left, which can be optimized by material selection. In the denim industry, for example, only a 30% of the jeans can be recycled due to the design elements such as stitching and rivets. If only a single fabric is used, the entire recycling process can be simpler.
In addition, the environmental destructive power of the dye cannot be ignored. With the same philosophy as the international environmental group Greenpeace, INEC believes that reducing the use of toxic chemicals is a prerequisite for achieving a circular economy in the textile and apparel industry.
In the process of recycling the textile and garment industry, producers are not the only participants, and consumers must also contribute. Since 2000, the number of garments purchased by consumers has increased significantly, and the service life of garments has been shortening. In 2015, the European market had a total of 6.4 million tons of clothing.
Every year, the French market has an average of 9.5 kg of clothing, home textiles and footwear. In 2017, France's potential recycling is 36% of the market's liquidity, which means that nearly 80% of fabrics in Europe will not be recycled.
In addition to appealing to consumers for rational consumption, INEC believes that alternative solutions, such as customized services, clothing production, upgrades and other clothing brands can provide complementary services. “The marketing strategies of these downstream segments connect end customers, allowing them to design products that meet their personal preferences, meet their personal vision, and increase brand loyalty, while also increasing the lifecycle of apparel.”