How Are Clothes Recycled?

More and more often now brands are trying to show their environmentally friendly actions through the usage of recycled materials in their products. Textile recycling is the reusing or reprocessing of used clothes or other materials like from furniture, bedding, carpets and so on. It also has many environmental benefits, such as less clothes in our landfills, reduced need for energy and water, pollution avoidance and lower demands for colour dying.

While textile recycling sounds fantastic and is something that the conscious consumer would be up for, what does recycling fabrics and clothes entail? This post will briefly explain in 4 stages about how the clothes we’ve thrown out ends up being in the new clothes that we buy.

1. Disposal/donation

Especially in Sweden, you may have seen those big, coloured bins at some random car park, shopping centre or somewhere else in your town. This is one way you can dispose of your unwanted clothes and other textiles. Another way is doing it through retail stores as some offer the service and even provide rewards and incentives to get you to recycle with them. Some clothing stores also work with garment collectors like I:Co who do the recycling and reusing for them.

2. Collection and sorting

The next step is the collection of the donated clothing that the public no longer wants. Once it is collected, it needs to be sorted. Some of the clothes can be reused and sold in thrift stores or are exported to developing countries. The clothes to be recycled into new material is sorted through manually; where the different types of materials are separated based on material and colour. Colour sorting means that re-dying isn’t necessary; thereby, saving energy and pollutants.

3. Processing

After the clothing is sorted, the ones that can be reduced to fibrous material are pulled and shredded into scraps or rags. These rags are then spun again into yarn. However, it is difficult to create something from 100% recycled clothes. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to blend it with other new fibres, which is why you sometimes see labels saying 30% recycled, for example. Following this, the yarn is cleaned and re-spun.

And voilà! The yarn is ready for use!

4. Leftovers

Despite being able to actually recycle then use old materials and fibres, there are still some of it that can’t be used for clothing again. But some ‘leftovers’ can be used as filling material like for padding in mattresses, insulation in cars or furniture cushioning.

As the world becomes more informed and aware of the current global environmental situation, it is likely that textile recycling will continue to rise. So make sure to recycle, or donate, your unusable clothes to benefit our environment!

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