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Critical aspects in design for fiber-to-fiber recycling of textiles



This report outlines critical aspects found for increased fiber-to-fiber recycling from a stakeholder’s perspective. The interviewed stakeholders from the fashion companies, textile sorters and textile recyclers generally stress the importance of investigating the barriers to fiber-to-fiber recycling. The current situation does in their view not offer possibilities to handle used textiles in an economic and resource efficient manner. It was also concluded that different stakeholder groups rank the critical aspects differently. The differences in the ranking indicate that each stakeholder group sees the responsibility (or ability) to overcome the main obstacles in other parts of the textile value chain. There is a clear need for increased coordination and exchange of information across the textile value chain. Therefore policy measures with intent to increase fiber to fiber recycling of textiles must include the whole value chain.
Chemical fiber-to-fiber recycling of textiles does exist; however in limited scale and generally not for mixes
generally not for mixes of natural and synthetic fibers, mainly due to the differences in the fiber
the fiber regeneration processes (dissolution versus melting) (Östlund et al., 2015). The Japanese Teijin-
Japanese Teijin-process, which is able to handle mixes of 80 percent polyester and 20 percent cotton,
20 percent cotton, forms an exception. This process is however very sensitive, and only uses Teijin
uses Teijin products as input. The existing chemical recycling processes are summarized in
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... However, as illustrated in a study from Mistra Future Fashion, this level of cooperation is not structural. The authors of this study interviewed apparel brands, textile recyclers, and post-consumer waste sorters and found a high level of alignment with regards to the vision and the barriers, but also found a high level of misalignment with regards to perceptions of efficacy to tackle these challenges [18]. Stakeholder dynamics in this study are, therefore, still considered a primary barrier to scalability of textile recovery's infrastructure. ...
... Harmful or banned chemicals in the feedstock may be on the resulting fiber, posing a risk that recycled fibers may not pass regulatory requirements [18]. Additionally, the presence of chemicals on the feedstock can cause malfunctions in the solventrecycling process; therefore, it is important that the overall system is able to remove such impurities [23]. ...
... Hence, in order to stabilize and set the course for the future growth of textile-to-textile recycling, access to funding will be needed [28] Over the past several years, the amount of literature addressing the circular economy for waste textiles has grown [29]. Technology barriers, financing challenges, and stakeholder dynamics are somewhat represented for textile recycling [18,22,23]. However, there are fewer assessments that focus on the economics and profitability of a circular textile value chain in which challenges are interrelated and stakeholders are highly codependent. ...
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Although the accumulation of post-consumer textile waste represents a serious environmental problem, the commercial potential of recycling this waste in the US is less established. The purpose of this research is to investigate the business case for using this waste as an input to textile-to-textile recycling. This research has three main objectives: explore the dynamics between post-consumer waste traders and recyclers; investigate challenges to faster scaling of textile waste feedstocks and the processing of this waste into new fibers; and provide theoretical and practical foundations for effective interventions in this area. The study employs a grounded theory approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with eleven senior representatives from textile sorting and fiber recycling organizations with operations in the US. The results reveal that the primary barriers to progress are commercial in nature. There is no financial incentive to take actions needed to reduce environmental impact. As proposed, an expansion of market partnerships to broaden target feedstocks could allow the mounting waste problem to be meaningfully addressed. However, it is still unclear how infrastructure development in the US will be financed or conducted to address the identified barriers. Meanwhile, accumulation of textile waste in US landfills shows no signs of slowing down.
... Even when nonreusable textiles are recycled, the main destinations remain "openloop" applications such as wipers, nonwoven, or insulation felts towards other industries [9,14,63]. Therefore, a technological barrier is commonly outlined, and a strong technical emphasis has been featured in the literature on textile recycling. ...
... Several other publications have addressed the challenges of textile recycling. For instance, Elander and Ljungkvist investigated through in-depth interviews with fashion companies, textile sorters, and recyclers 43 critical aspects for increasing textile-to-textile recycling [63]. Roos et al. [17] compiled a state-of-the-art on existing technologies while outlining the important factors for the future of textile recycling. ...
... Considering the refinement and addition of statements, based on received comments in the second round, we attempted to group the opinions by coherent themes. Derived from the study conducted by Elander et al. [63] in 2016, the following five categories were identified as the most relevant for aggregating the statements while ensuring a sufficient level of detail. Although closely connected, the categories encompass critical aspects of textile recycling, thereby allowing to evaluate the reviewed challenges in relation to the value chain described in the first section of the paper. ...
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The increasing resource pressure and the expanding amount of textile waste have been rising recycling as a clear priority for the fashion and apparel industry. However, textile recycling remains limited and is therefore a targeted issue in the forthcoming EU policies. As the fashion industry is embedded in complex value chains, enhancing textile recycling entails a comprehensive understanding of the existing challenges. Yet, the literature review suggests only limited empirical studies in the sector, and a dedicated state-of-the-art is still lacking. Filling this gap, a Delphi study was conducted supplemented by the Regnier’s Abacus technique. Through an iterative, anonymous, and controlled feedback process, the obstacles collected from the extant literature were collectively discussed with a representative panel of 28 experts, compared to the situation in Europe. After two rounds, the lack of eco-design practices, the absence of incentive policies, and the lack of available and accurate information on the product components emerged as the most consensual statements. Linking theory to practice, this paper aims to improve consistency in the understanding of the current state of textile recycling in Europe, while providing an encompassing outline of the current experts’ opinion on the priority challenges for the sector.
... A range of stakeholders, including fashion companies and other textile companies, collectors and recyclers, have an interest in increasing fibre-to-fibre recycling of textiles but face challenges in doing so (Elander & Ljungkvist, 2016;Watson et al, 2017). Some of these challenges are technical including shortening of fibre lengths, separation of fibre types in products with fibre mixes and the presence of persistent chemicals in some specialised products. ...
... Economic This is currently too expensive, which means that 1) only low prices can be paid for material input factors, and 2) that output factors cannot outperform virgin material. (Elander & Ljungkvist, 2016) Financial support for the collection and treatment of non-reusable textiles. Support can come from manufacturers (via extended producer responsibility (EPR) or municipalities (financed by savings on waste management costs). ...
... As such, they are officially owned by the municipality in question, which must therefore give special permission to organizations that want to collect and sell this "waste". (Elander & Ljungkvist, 2016) Challenges of establishing return systems for own products Systemic Negatively affects textile companies that want to establish "closed-loop recycling" where their own used products are used to produce new ones. (Watson et al, 2017) High labour costs for redesign / upcycling Systemic To the limited extent that it is practiced, redesign and repair typically takes place locally. ...
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This study aims to provide information about circular economy perspectives in the management of textile products and textile waste in the European Union (EU). The report improves the understanding of current value chains in the manufacturing and retailing of apparel products in the EU and provides a detailed picture of material flows in the EU textile sector in a global context. This includes an overview of the size of the textile processing industry in the EU in terms of turnover, employment, number and size of companies, and the EU's share of the global industry. Then, an accurate picture is drawn of the volume (tonnes) and value (Euros) of new fibres, yarns, fabrics and textile products (apparel and household textiles) produced in the EU and traded with the rest of the world. This is complemented by a detailed look at the volumes of post-consumer textiles available for collection, reuse and recycling in EU countries, based on available data. This mapping serves as a preview of the upcoming challenges associated with the increased collection and processing of post-consumer textiles, foreseen as a result of mandatory obligations for the separate collection of textile waste in 2025. Furthermore, it identifies needs for planning the new fibre-to-fibre recycling capacity. This study also provides information on current industrial practice in the EU for the collection, sorting and preparation of post-consumer textiles for reuse and recycling. Both currently installed and emerging technologies for the recycling of textile fabrics and apparel are mapped in order to provide a snapshot of the state of the art of available technologies that are expected to cope with the increased amount of textile waste towards 2025. The study details existing capacities for the collection and sorting of old textiles in Europe, and describes recycling technologies that are at a relatively high technological maturity level in order to estimate future sorting and recycling capacities. In order to minimise overlaps with an ongoing study commissioned by DG GROW about textile recycling technologies, the review of recycling technologies in this study mainly focuses on the core principles of each technology type and provides examples of that technology type in operation. On this basis, the challenges that exist with regard to the sorting and recycling technologies in terms of achieving a more circular economy will be addressed.With regard to the perspectives of the circular economy in the textile sector, the study collects and examines established and newly emerging circular business models that have the potential to make the value chain for the European textile and clothing market and the post-consumer textiles sector more circular. Knowledge on existing and emerging practices of repair, reuse and recycling of textile products is presented and analysed with a view to ascertaining how these activities can contribute to increasing the circular economy in the EU. This provides a basis for identifying which options show the greatest potential, and for understanding which policy interventions, if any, could help shift the textile sector towards increased circularity. The study concludes with an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the textiles production and consumption system in two scenarios: 1) the prevalence of a linear economy model and 2) a projected circular economy scenario. On this basis, the opportunities for and threats to the current textile sector, including the post-consumer textile collection, sorting, reuse and recycling industries, are examined in their entirety. Existing and emerging circular economy models are analysed in the same way
... Chemical recycling of cotton and other cellulose based fibers are expected to be developed in full scale by 2030. [68] 3.1 Chemical recycling approaches for commonly consumed polymers ...
... However, the process is very sensitive, and only uses Teijin products as input. [68] Nylon and spandex are also two fibers that are commonly used together especially in sportswear and usually, the percentage of nylon is considerably higher than that of spandex. Spandex can be expelled from the blend by dissolving it in solvents, for example, N,N-dimethyl formamide. ...
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Today, World economy is only 8.6% circular, which creates a huge potential in materials reuse. To close the Emission Gap by 2032, this percentage needs to be doubled. The circular economy ensures that with less virgin material input and fewer emissions. With the help of effective recycling technologies, virgin material use can be decreased and especially petroleum based materials impact can fall within planetary boundaries. This book chapter analyzes different chemical and biological recycling technologies, their advantages and challenges in denim production. Moreover, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) analysis will be used to evaluate the environmental impact of recycled polymeric materials usage in denim fabrics. Finally, it concludes by challenges and the future of chemically recycled materials in denim production and opportunities to evaluate waste as a raw material to design circular systems.
... Recently, the recycling of oligomers, polymers, and monomers has to be increased, which avoids textile dye effluents not recycling or reusing fabrics. These monomers, polymers, and oligomers are the cause of hindrance in the recycling and reuse processing (Elander and Ljungkvist, 2016). There are different methods of reusing and recycling effluents that include filtration, coagulation, ozonation, and biological treatment. ...
Amidst the exponential industrialization and global economy, the textile sector has been considered a grave concern worldwide in terms of effluent discharge, and high-water consumption that ultimately causes water pollution. Conventional treatment technologies have over 100 times more water footprint, high capital cost, time-intensive, high material usage, land issue, high infrastructure, and manpower consumption than the advanced oxidation processes. The current study primarily examines the most sustainable approach for treating textile dye-bath effluents through combined physical and advanced oxidation technologies, providing a comprehensive literature survey about treatment techniques. First, it explores the physical treatment processes with electrocoagulation, dissolved air flotation, lamella clarifier, and reverse osmosis stages. Secondly, the advanced oxidation processes (AOPs) such as ozonation, direct photolysis (UV), UV/H2O2, UV/H2O2/O3, Fenton, and photo-Fenton system are also individually discussed, which showed significant results in the treatment efficiency. Particularly, the integrated electrocoagulation process and AOPs are also ameliorated, which achieved the best eco-friendly treatment, time-effective, and reduce area footprint provided by numerous studies. The AOPs are required for almost 30 min for the treatment, whereas the biological treatment takes 24–72 h, which resultantly minimizes 25 times area footprint, minimum electricity consumption, and high removal efficiency. Lastly, cost estimation and policy formulation of the effluent treatment plants at the national level are also demonstrated to prevent the toxicity of treatment practices in textile industries. Overall, the current investigation of integrated treatment technologies illustrated a promising alternative and environmental-friendly area footprint, which could be readily promulgated towards the sustainable treatment and reuse of textile dye-bath effluents.
... Sorted textiles must match textile fibres recyclers' demands with regard to fibre composition, tolerance to contaminations and state when entering the different recycling processes. On its turn, the output of the recycling processes must match producers' and manufacturers' demand on input materials for production of new textile products (Elander, M., Ljungkvist, H., 2016). It is clear from literature and the conducted stakeholder consultation that both on feedstock and output requirements, knowlegde and expectations of the different parties involved need to be improved and better aligned. ...
Technical Report
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The report provides substantial knowledge about the state of art of textile-to-textile recycling on global level, and a clear and well-defined analysis of opportunities and challenges for the European textile and clothing industry. The report sheds light on the technical feasibility and maturity for market uptake of textile-to-textile recycling technologies – including mechanical and chemical recycling approaches. The report also evaluates their economic and environmental effectiveness and outlines necessary steps to support the industrial uptake of textile recycling technologies and circular business models. In Chapter 6, Ecologic Institute provides policy makers with an in-depth analysis of bottlenecks and enablers for textile-to-textile recycling in the EU. The authors elaborated key policy options aiming to enhance textile recycling as part of a circular textile economy in the EU. These include: > Enhancing traceability of materials and chemicals used in textiles > Promoting design for recyclability > Easing access to feedstocks for textile-to-textile recycling > Stimulating the demand for recycled fibres > Setting a frame with clear long-term direction
... Considering the low recycling rate of waste resulting from pre-and post-consumption of textile products, the researchers are constantly looking for new environmentally friendly recycling technologies [18,24,25] and new applications for waste-based textile products [26][27][28]. The general direction is to upcycle, to obtain new products with increased added value and functionalities, but in general practice, the recycling of textile waste is downcycled [29,30]. ...
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The global demand for fiber-based products is continuously increasing. The increased consumption and fast fashion current in the global clothing market generate a significant quantity of pre-and post-production waste that ends up in landfills and incinerators. The present study aims to obtain a new waste-based composite material panel for construction applications with improved mechanical properties that can replace traditional wood-based oriented strand boards (OSB). The new composite material is formed by using textile wastes as a reinforcement structure and a combination of bi-oriented polypropylene films (BOPP) waste, polypropylene non-woven materials (TNT) waste and virgin polypropylene fibers (PP) as a matrix. The mechanical properties of waste-based composite materials are modeled using the Taguchi method based on orthogonal arrays to maximize the composite characteristics’ mechanical properties. Experimental data validated the theoretical results obtained.
... Hence, circularity of recycled fibres is limited, and to produce a new textile product in a fibre-to-fibre recycling process, a considerable amount of virgin fibres is needed (often up to 80% virgin fibres plus 20% recycled fibres). Moreover, there are many nontechnical barriers, ranging from import regulations to unclear ownership of textile waste [40]. ...
The finite material basis for human activities on Earth is under growing pressure. The unsustainable outcomes of the textile sector include resource overuse, accumulation of waste, largely uncontrolled emissions release into the natural system, and labour rights violations. There is broad consensus in academia and the industry itself regarding need to transform the textile system. Circular Economy (CE) has recently been the most prominent strategy to target resource scarcity and environmental problems at the same time. CE is at the core of the Textiles Strategy within the EU’s Green Deal Circular Economy Action Plan. It focusses on energy efficiency, reusability, recyclability and repairability of textile products. Despite its popularity and increasing implementation in the textile sector, CE is criticised as perpetuating the unsustainable status quo by fueling the narrative of ecological modernisation. This research therefore investigates the contribution of CE re-use and recycling interventions to reduced material flows and overall sustainability in the textile sector from a comprehensive sustainability perspective by using systems thinking. In a first step, the systems-oriented concept map extension (SOCME) tool is used to explore and illustrate sustainability challenges in the multiscalar and deeply interconnected textile system. In a second step, recycling and re-use are critically assessed in terms of their potential contribution to 1) limited overall material throughput and 2) environmental, social and economic sustainability in the case of textiles. Our findings show that recycling and re-use as CE interventions are suited only to a limited extent to achieve the goal of reduced material flows if operating within traditional market dynamics and growth paradigms. Therefore, CE's most prominent interventions in the textile sector are not able, per se, to lead to a more sustainable textile sector. We offer four recommendations for practioners, policy-makers and scholars to re-direct CE towards sustainability and invite for discussion: 1) re-introduce waste hierarchies with a clear prioritisation on overall reduction of all sources and forms of waste 2) reduce material and products’ complexity, 3) reframe a CE narrative for the textile sector, and 4) apply a systems perspective to CE.
Background: The problem of difficult-to-recycle textile waste is an ongoing challenge. One of the issues is the lack of exchange between the recovery sector and design/manufacture of recycled materials. This paper seeks to addresses the gap in knowledge between sorting (in recovery) and blending activities (in manufacture), expanding current design strategies towards textile recovery. To achieve this, the research explores sorting practices of wool/acrylic blends in the mechanical wool recycling industry and applies this knowledge to the design of new yarns. Methods: A bricolage of methods was used to conduct this research in three parts. First, an overview of a previous study by Author1 is presented from which this research builds. Second, field research using conversation methods with the owner of a closed wool recycling company was conducted centring around their material archive. Thirdly, practice research was conducted in a spinning facility where Author1 applied knowledge from part 1 and 2 by designing four recycled yarns. This was supported by interviews with a sorter and recycler to expand on the findings. Results: Four methods of sorting and the sorting grades/thresholds that are found in the wool recycling industry are outlined, and five methods of recycled blending historically used in the wool recycling industry are established. This knowledge (sorting methods/grades and recycled blending techniques) were applied in practice and from the methods employed, the relationship between sorting in recovery and recycled blending in manufacture was established across three themes: fibre quality, fibre type and fibre colour. Conclusions: The paper concludes that understanding the link sorting and blending provides the foundations for a ‘Design for Sorting’ methodology. When lessons from each theme (quality, type and colour) are combined, this enables fibre value to be retained in recovery and thus, provides a route for longevity of our textile fibres.
Among the scrapheap of society’s unwanted materials lies a vast and wondrous world of fashion potential. In the liminal phase between a product’s rejection and its fate as landfill, designers are called on to create a positive alternative. The upcycling process encourages designers to consider how they might release the past social lives of products to uncover the design potential of new creations. Upcycling introduces the dimensions of time, designer knowledge and skills into the creation of a garment or accessory. This practice makes a place in fashion for challenging the hypercycle of consumption and the new by valuing fabrics that can tell stories of their past lives in other times and places. In this article I examine the appropriation of retired fire hose in the fashion industry by the company Elvis & Kresse. In the framework of Arnold van Gennep’s ritual phases of transition, namely the ‘pre-liminal’, ‘liminal’ and ‘post-liminal’, of critical interest is the second or liminal phase, in which the retired fire hose risks becoming obscure and permanently separated from reality but is instead incorporated into luxury bags and belts. This article advances the perception of the liminal as a place for collecting ‘polluting’ materials and, via design, reintroducing them into society. In my focus on this company and on fire hose as a fashion textile, I probe the liminal threshold as a place of creative experimentation and a powerful framework for understanding and structuring product transitions. The ability to change how an item is perceived by fracturing its sense of time and place highlights the importance of upcycling in tackling many of the current criticisms levelled at fashion while introducing new roles for designers as facilitators of transformation.
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