Textile recycling: a big environmental challenge
12 Dec 2022 /

Textile recycling: a big environmental challenge

The production of new garments has doubled in the last fifteen years. It has been calculated that 92 million tonnes of textile waste are generated each year and a dustcart load of textile products is dumped or burned in the world every second.

The textile sector is one of the industries with the greatest environmental impact. It is the second highest consumer of water and is responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions. Another major impact of the sector is the generation of waste, aggravated by the growth of fast fashion in recent years, which leads to excessive consumption of cheap, low-quality garments with a low usage rate.

According to the experts it is essential for a change to take place at a social level. It is necessary to replace the stigma that is still attached to the consumption of second-hand clothing with a social awareness so that what is badly perceived is, precisely, the consumption of fast and not very sustainable fashion.

Among other solutions, the circular economy provides formulas to prolong the useful life of materials. It reduces the generation of waste to a minimum, studies how to make the most of items already produced and favours the use of renewable energies.

Design is a key element in the building of a regenerative economy, since this is the stage when the product is defined. The integration of circular design in company dynamics will allow the development of more innovative, sustainable and competitive organizations.

In this respect some initiatives have taken the lead and have set to work. These include, for example the product design firm Actiu, which has set up Second Act, a collection of articles made from discarded materials which are thus given a new opportunity. In any manufacturing process there is always excess material. In the case of Actiu, it is fabric. This material is placed in the hands of local artisans to create unique, locally made products, which do not generate waste or pollution deriving from transport.

The firm GAN, successor to the original textile business of Gandia Blasco, continues its strategy of social and environmental sustainability. One of its initiatives, in cooperation with designer Álvaro Catalán de Ocón, is the collection of rugs designed to raise awareness and to combat, through craftsmanship, the problem of plastic waste. Each rug is an accurate representation, to scale, of one of the most polluted and polluting rivers on the planet: Ganges, Indus, Yangtze and Niger. The rugs are handmade with the hand-tufted technique, using recycled plastic fibres (100% recycled PET).

Since June 2021, the 20 fixed ecoparks of the Metropolitan Entity for Waste Treatment have collected a total of 90,922 kilos of clothing since the Humana Foundation’s textile waste containers came into service. This initiative has avoided the emission of 558 tons of CO2 and has favored the creation of new jobs.

Textile design for the home benefits from other initiatives along these lines, such as that of designer Marie-Louise Rosholm, who has developed seamless knitted upholstery, worked as though it were a sweater for the sofa, avoiding waste. Equipo DTR, in turn, offers curtains made from 100% recycled material.

The firm Vesica Piscis, another leader in this respect, opts for the manufacture of vegan, recycled and recyclable footwear, based on the circular economy, via a conscientious, ethical and responsible selection of raw materials, emphasizing the formulation of processes and paying special attention to the traceability, origin and history of the materials used.