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Environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling – A review

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This paper reviews studies of the environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling, to provide a summary of the current knowledge and point out areas for further research. Forty-one studies were reviewed, whereof 85% deal with recycling and 41% with reuse (27% cover both reuse and recycling). Fibre recycling is the most studied recycling type (57%), followed by polymer/oligomer recycling (37%), monomer recycling (29%), and fabric recycling (14%). Cotton (76%) and polyester (63%) are the most studied materials. The reviewed publications provide strong support for claims that textile reuse and recycling in general reduce environmental impact compared to incineration and landfilling, and that reuse is more beneficial than recycling. The studies do, however, expose scenarios under which reuse and recycling are not beneficial for certain environmental impacts. For example, as benefits mainly arise due to the avoided production of new products, benefits may not occur in cases with low replacement rates or if the avoided production processes are relatively clean. Also, for reuse, induced customer transport may cause environmental impact that exceeds the benefits of avoided production, unless the use phase is sufficiently extended. In terms of critical methodological assumptions, authors most often assume that textiles sent to recycling are wastes free of environmental burden, and that reused products and products made from recycled materials replace products made from virgin fibres. Examples of other content mapped in the review are: trends of publications over time, common aims and geographical scopes, commonly included and omitted impact categories, available sources of primary inventory data, knowledge gaps and future research needs. The latter include the need to study cascade systems, to explore the potential of combining various reuse and recycling routes.
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Environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling eA review
Gustav Sandin
, Greg M. Peters
RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, Eklandagatan 86, 412 61 Gothenburg, Sweden
Chalmers University of Technology, 412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden
School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Australia
article info
Article history:
Received 20 October 2017
Received in revised form
8 February 2018
Accepted 24 February 2018
Available online 27 February 2018
Life cycle assessment
Circular economy
Collaborative consumption
Waste management
This paper reviews studies of the environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling, to provide a
summary of the current knowledge and point out areas for further research. Forty-one studies were
reviewed, whereof 85% deal with recycling and 41% with reuse (27% cover both reuse and recycling).
Fibre recycling is the most studied recycling type (57%), followed by polymer/oligomer recycling (37%),
monomer recycling (29%), and fabric recycling (14%). Cotton (76%) and polyester (63%) are the most
studied materials.
The reviewed publications provide strong support for claims that textile reuse and recycling in general
reduce environmental impact compared to incineration and landlling, and that reuse is more benecial
than recycling. The studies do, however, expose scenarios under which reuse and recycling are not
benecial for certain environmental impacts. For example, as benets mainly arise due to the avoided
production of new products, benets may not occur in cases with low replacement rates or if the avoided
production processes are relatively clean. Also, for reuse, induced customer transport may cause envi-
ronmental impact that exceeds the benets of avoided production, unless the use phase is sufciently
In terms of critical methodological assumptions, authors most often assume that textiles sent to
recycling are wastes free of environmental burden, and that reused products and products made from
recycled materials replace products made from virgin bres. Examples of other content mapped in the
review are: trends of publications over time, common aims and geographical scopes, commonly included
and omitted impact categories, available sources of primary inventory data, knowledge gaps and future
research needs. The latter include the need to study cascade systems, to explore the potential of
combining various reuse and recycling routes.
©2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ................................................ 354
1.1. A topology of textile reuse and recycling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................354
1.2. Current status of textile reuse and recycling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................355
2. Method ..................................................................... . ... ................................................. 355
2.1. Identifying literature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................355
2.2. Mapping content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................356
3. Results and discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ................................................ 356
3.1. Overview of publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................356
3.2. Trends over time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................357
3.3. Aims and scopes of publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................358
3.4. Methods used in publications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................359
3.5. Allocation procedures and replacement rates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................359
*Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (G. Sandin),
(G.M. Peters).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Cleaner Production
journal homepage:
0959-6526/©2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365
3.6. Impact categories and inventory indicators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................................360
3.7. Sources of primary inventory data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................................360
3.8. Linkages between studies and citations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................................361
3.9. Findings ethe environmental potential of textile reuse and recycling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ...........................362
3.10. Gaps and further research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .......................................363
4. Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .................... 363
Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . ..................................................364
Supplementary data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .................... 364
References .................................................................... .....................................................364
1. Introduction
The global demand for textile products is steadily increasing
(The Fiber Year Consulting, 2015;Oerlikon, 2010), a trend likely to
continue due population growth and economic development.
Meanwhile, the textile industry is facing tremendous environ-
mental and resource challenges. Sixty-three percent of textile bres
are derived from petrochemicals (Lenzing, 2017) whose production
and fate give rise to considerable carbon dioxide (CO
) emissions
(Shen et al., 2010a). The remaining 37% is dominated by cotton
(24%), a thirsty plant associated with water depletion ethe desic-
cation of the Aral Sea being the most infamous example (Micklin,
2007)eand toxic pollution, due to intensive use of pesticides
(FAO-ICAC, 2015). For most categories of environmental impacts,
later stages in the textile production process give rise to even larger
impacts (Roos et al., 2015a). Wet treatment processes (dyeing,
nishing, printing, etc.) are major sources of toxic emissions (Roos
et al., 2015b), and spinning of yarns and weaving/knitting of fabrics
most often rely on fossil energy use, causing emissions such as CO
and particulates (Roos et al., 2015a). Allwood et al. (2006) suggest
greenhouse emissions, water use, toxic chemicals and waste are the
main environmental issues facing the textile industry. Sandin et al.
(2015) estimate that, for several environmental impact categories,
the impact per garment use in a western country (in this case,
Sweden) must be reduced by 30e100% by 2050 if the industry is to
be considered sustainable with regard to the planetary boundaries
outlined by Steffen et al. (2015).Roos et al. (2016) show that such a
grand transition requires a combination of different measures for
impact reduction, most likely including more reuse and recycling.
Because of the aforementioned challenges, there is regulatory
interest in increasing textile reuse and recycling, which would
move the treatment of textile waste further up in the waste hier-
archy, consistent with the EU directive on waste (European
Commission (EC), 2008). Increased textile reuse and recycling
could potentially reduce the production of virgin textile bres and,
in the case of reuse, also avoid engineering processes further
downstream in the textile product life cycle, and thus reduce
environmental impact. The potential environmental benets of
various systems of textile reuse and recycling have been assessed in
the literature, using methods like life cycle assessment (LCA). To
date, no review of such studies has been published in the academic
literature or elsewhere, which means that there is no available
comprehensive source of information on, for example, (i) what has
been studied and what has not been studied (e.g. in terms of
product systems and environmental issues); (ii) what the results of
such studies tell us about the environmental potential of textile
reuse and recycling; (iii) what methods and methodological as-
sumptions are usually employed in suchstudies; (iv) whether there
are general methodological challenges to resolve; and (v) what
inventory data pertaining to textile reuse and recycling is available
in the literature. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to review studies
of the environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling, to
provide a summary of the current knowledge and point out areas
for further research. The intended audiences of the review are de-
cision makers and stakeholders in the textile industry as well as
practitioners and researchers involved in assessing the environ-
mental impact of textile reuse and recycling.
1.1. A topology of textile reuse and recycling
Textile reuse refers to various means for prolonging the practical
service life of textile products by transferring them to new owners
(Fortuna and Diyamandoglu, 2017), with or without prior modi-
cation (e.g. mending). This can for example be done through rent-
ing, trading, swapping, borrowing and inheriting, facilitated by, for
example, second hand shops, ea markets, garage sales, online
marketplaces, charities and clothing libraries. In the academic
literature, various forms of reuse havebeen conceptualised in terms
such as collaborative consumption, product-service systems, com-
mercial sharing systems and access-based consumption (Belk,
Textile recycling, on the other hand, most often refers to the
reprocessing of pre- or post-consumer textile waste for use in new
textile or non-textile products. In this paper, we adopt a more
generous notion of textile recycling, also including the recycling of
non-textile materials and products (such as polyethylene tere-
phthalate (PET) bottles) into textile products.
Textile recycling routes are typically classied as being either
mechanical,chemical or, less frequently, thermal. This is in many
cases a simplication of reality, as recycling routes often consist of a
mix of mechanical, chemical and thermal processes. For example,
chemical recycling most often refers to a recycling route in which
the polymers are depolymerised (in the case of synthetic polymer
bres derived from petrochemicals, such as polyester) or dissolved
(in the case of natural or synthetic cellulosic bres, such as cotton
and viscose). Having thus been dissembled to molecular levels,
monomers or oligomers are repolymerised, and polymers respun
into new bres. However, prior to the depolymerisation or disso-
lution, the recycled material is most often mechanically pretreated.
Moreover, thermal recycling often refers to the conversion of PET
akes, pellets or chips into bres by melt extrusion ebut the akes,
pellets and chips have been produced from PET waste by me-
chanical means, which is why this recycling route is sometimes
referred to as mechanical recycling (Shen et al., 2010b). Further-
more, the term thermal recycling is easily confused with thermal
recovery, which is when textile waste is incinerated to generate
heat and/or electricity (Schmidt et al., 2016). To complicate things
further, incineration with energy recovery is occasionally labelled
as recycling, although the term recycling mostoften refers solely to
material recycling (as is the case in the present paper). So the
systematisation of recycling routes into mechanical, chemical and
thermal ones is ambiguous and questionable. In the present paper,
instead of systematising recycling routes based on the nature of one
of the processes involved, we systematise based on the level of
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365354
disassembly of the recovered material. If the fabric of a product is
recovered and reused in new products, we refer to this as fabric
recycling (sometimes this is referred to as material reuse (Zamani
et al., 2015)). If the fabric is dissembled, but the original bres are
preserved, this is bre recycling. If the bres are dissembled, but the
polymers or oligomers are preserved, this is polymer/oligomer
recycling. And if the polymers/oligomers are dissembled, but the
monomers are preserved, this is monomer recycling. Then there are
various means of achieving these types of recycling routes, often by
combining various mechanical, chemical and thermal processes.
The above systematisation of recycling routes resembles a sys-
temisation recently presented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Other classications of recycling routes also deserve
mentioning. For example, if the recycled material is of lower value
(or quality) than the original product, this is termed downcycling.
Today, existing textile recycling routes are in most cases down-
cycling. Clothing and home textiles are downcycled into, for
example, industrial rags, low-grade blankets, insulation materials
and upholstery (Schmidt et al., 2016). In contrast, if a product from
recycled material is of higher value (or quality) than the original
product, it is termed upcycling. As the length of the bres and the
constituent molecules are reduced by wear and laundry (Palme
et al., 2014), fabric and bre recycling typically yields materials of
lower quality (if quality is dened in terms of bre quality) than
materials made from virgin bres (unless mixed with yarn from
virgin bres). Thus fabric and bre recycling are typically consid-
ered to be downcycling (at least in terms of bre quality ein terms
of other qualities of the end product, such as aesthetics, t-for-
purpose or material qualities dened by fabric construction
rather than bre quality, certain end products made from recycled
bres or fabrics may still be considered upcycled). In contrast,
polymer, oligomer and monomer recycling typically yields bres of
similar quality to virgin bres. It should be emphasised that just
because bre and fabric recycling are examples of downcycling (in
terms of bre quality), they are not necessarily less preferable from
a waste hierarchy perspective compared to polymer, oligomer or
monomer recycling. In contrast, a cascade approach could be
optimal, in which the textile waste rst enters fabric or bre
recycling, and once the bre length has been reduced to a level at
which the material is not t for fabric or bre recycling, it enters
polymer, oligomer or monomer recycling.
Another classication for recycling routes is into closed- or open-
loop recycling. Closed-loop recycling refers to when the material
from a product is recycled and used in a (more or less) identical
product, whereas open-loop recycling (also called cascade recy-
cling) refers to processes in which the material from a product is
recycled and used in another product (Ekvall and Finnveden, 2001;
opffer, 1996). A productcan here refer to different levels of
renement, which means that a given recycling route may be
referred to as either closed- or open-loop recycling, depending on
context. For example, something that is a product in a business-to-
business context (e.g. a bre or a fabric) may not be in a retail or
consumer context (where garments are key textile products). The
latter viewpoint would imply that closed-loop recycling relies on,
for example, a T-shirt being recycled into a T-shirt eor even a T-
shirt of a certain size, colour and, perhaps most importantly, quality
(e.g., bre length) being recycled into a T-shirt of the same size,
colour and quality. In contrast, a more lax denition of closed-loop
recycling could, for example, be that a material category (such as
packaging) is recycled into the same material category rather than
another (such as textiles, as is the case in the aforementioned
bottle-to-bre recycling) (
Ostlund et al., 2015).
Fig. 1 summarises the above classication of various forms of
reuse and recycling.
1.2. Current status of textile reuse and recycling
The interest in increased textile reuse and recycling is consistent
with the increased attention being given to the circular economy
concept in international and national policy, see for example the
2015 EU Circular Economy Action Plan (EC, 2017) and the 11th
Chinese ve-year plan issued in 2006 (Zhijun and Nailing, 2007). In
the business world, circular economy has gained momentum
through the work by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose cir-
cular economy system diagram highlights the important role of
reuse and recycling in a potential future circular economy (Ellen
MacArthur Foundation, 2017b). In the textile industry, reuse and
recycling (in the form of downcycling) is already well established.
For example, in Europe about 15e20% of disposed textiles are
collected (the rest is landlled or incinerated), whereof about 50% is
downcycled and 50% is reused, mainly through exporting to
developing countries (Textile Recycling Association, 2005). There
are, however, large variations within Europe: more prominent ex-
amples are Germany, in which about 70% of disposed textiles are
collected for reuse and recycling, whereof a fraction is separated for
incineration (Textile Recycling Association, 2005), and Denmark, in
which about 50% is collected, mainly for reuse domestically or
abroad (Palm et al., 2014). Still, there is a great potential to further
increase reuse, as clothing items typically are disposed of long
before the end of their technical service life (Roos et al., 2017;
Woolridge et al., 2006). Considering the low recycling rate today,
there is a great potential to also increase recycling, particularly
polymer, oligomer and monomer recycling, thereby preventing
textile waste that cannot be reused or fabric/bre-recycled from
being landlled or incinerated. Polymer, oligomer and monomer
recycling is, however, hindered by a lack of technologies for sorting
and separation into pure enough fractions (
Ostlund et al., 2015),
although there have recently been signicant breakthroughs in the
separation of cotton/polyester blends (Palme et al., 2017). There are
also numerous non-technical barriers for increased textile recycling
(Elander and Ljungkvist, 2016).
2. Method
The method used in the literature review consists of two steps:
(i) identifying the literature to study, by a search in databases
combined with a set of rules for selecting the relevant pieces of
literature, and (ii) mapping the content of the selected literature by
extracting information using a set of questions. These two steps are
described below.
2.1. Identifying literature
We searched for literature in the Scopus, Science Direct and
Google Scholar databases, in May and June of 2017, using the
following Boolean search string: (life cycle assessmentOR life
cycle analysisOR LCA OR ((environmental OR energy) AND
(assessment OR evaluation OR analysis))) AND (textile OR clothing
OR garment OR fashion OR apparel) AND (recycling OR reuse OR
collaborative consumptionOR second handOR library OR
sharing OR leasing). To ensure identication of all relevant litera-
ture, we also included relevant studies encountered when
screening or reviewing other studies. See the supplementary
material for further details on the literature search.
To select a relevant and manageable set of studies among the
identied pieces of literature, we set up the following selection
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365 355
Inclusion of any type of available study (published, whether
peer-reviewed or not).
Inclusion of studies on any category of textiles (clothing, home
textiles, technical textiles, etc.).
Inclusion of studies of any geographical scope.
Exclusion of studies which do not include quantitative results, or
which merely reproduce the quantitative results of others.
Exclusion of studies which are older than 14.5 years (before
2003), a cut-off implemented because we could not gain access
to the handful of potentially relevant studies we found from
before 2003.
Exclusion of studies in other languages than English or Swedish
(the languages the authors of this report handle uently).
Exclusion of studies on energy recycling(i.e. energy recovery),
as the focus of the review is on recycling of materials (specif-
ically fabrics, bres, polymers, oligomers and monomers).
Exclusion of studies of recyclableproducts, unless some
recycling process is included within the system boundaries.
Exclusion of studies on comparisons of disposable vs. multiple
use textiles, as this kind of reuse does not t the denition of
reuse adopted in the present study, i.e. the transferring of
products to new owners, which is based on the denition by
Fortuna and Diyamandoglu (2017).
Exclusion of duplicates (e.g., if a technical report was later
published in a peer-reviewed journal, or if a peer-reviewed
paper was later included in a doctoral thesis, we only consider
the peer-reviewed paper).
2.2. Mapping content
The content of the selected studies were mapped by extracting
information using the following questions.
What is the aim(s)?
What method(s) is used?
What product system(s) is studied?
Is it on textile reuse and/or recycling?
In the case of recycling, is it on fabric, bre, polymer/oligomer
and/or monomer recycling?
What textile material(s) is reused and recycled, respectively?
What is the geographical scope?
What allocation method(s) is used?
Is any primary inventory data shown? If so, on what processes?
What environmental impact categories or inventory indicators
are studied?
What are the conclusions regarding the environmental impact
of textile reuse or recycling? (pertaining to the specic case
Which of the other studies reviewed in the present paper are
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Overview of publications
The rules for selecting literature described in the method sec-
tion of this paper generated a list of 41 publications: 21 peer-
reviewed papers and 20 other types of publications (see Table 1).
Full bibliographical details are given in the reference list at the end
of the paper. The below subsections describe and discuss some
content of the publications. For the full mapping of the content,
using the questions of section 2.2, see the supplementary material.
Table 1 provides an overview of the content of the selected
publications in terms of whether reuse or recycling is studied, the
bre content of the materials being reused or recycled, and the type
of recycling routes being employed. It can be noted that it is quite
common to study both reuse and recycling in the same publication
(29% of publications). More publications deal with recycling (85%)
than with reuse (44%). In publications of recycling, bre recycling is
the most studied recycling type (57%), followed by polymer/olig-
omer recycling (37%), monomer recycling (23%), and fabric
Fig. 1. A classication of textile reuse and recycling routes.
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365356
recycling (14%). The high prevalence of bre recycling is probably
due to the fact that it is a relativelycommon recycling route, widely
applied in commercial scale both in terms of downcycling (e.g. to
insulation) and textile-to-textile recycling (e.g. re-spinning of new
yarn from cotton or wool waste).
Cotton is the most studied material (covered in 76% of the
studies) both for studies of reuse and recycling, followed by poly-
ester (63%), also counting bottle-to-bre recycling, viscose (25%)
and wool (20%). Other materials are studied in no more than a few
publications each. There are no substantial differences between
peer-reviewed and other types of publications with regard to the
studied material type. The preponderance of studies on polyester
and cotton reects the domination of bre markets by these bres
ethey occupy about 51% and 24% of the global market, respectively
(Lenzing, 2017;The Fiber Year Consulting, 2015). Fig. 2 provides an
overview of the prevalence of different material in studies of reuse
and certain recycling routes.
The above percentages could be underestimates as at least one
the studied reused/recycled materials is not specied in four of the
publications, and information on the type of recycling is missing in
3.2. Trends over time
Fig. 3 shows the number of publications of environmental as-
sessments of textile reuse and recycling over time. The moving 5
year-average elucidates a steadily increasing number of publica-
tions per year, from about 1.5 a decade ago to about 4.5 in recent
Fig. 4 shows the number of publications each year covering
textile reuse and/or specic types of textile recycling routes. No
apparent trend over time can be determined with regard to the
Table 1
The content of the selected publications, in terms of whether reuse or recycling has been studied, the type of materials studied, and a classication of the studied recycling
routes. CO ¼cotton, PES ¼polyester, CV ¼viscose, PET ¼polyethylene terephthalate, PP ¼polypropylene, PA ¼polyamide, PAN ¼polyacrylic, EA ¼elastane, WO ¼wool,
LI ¼linen, HF ¼hemp, SE ¼silk, PU ¼polyurethane, LDPE ¼low-density polyethylene, HDPE ¼high-density polyethylene, N/A ¼Not applicable.
Author and year of publication Reuse or recycling Reused materials Recycled materials Fabric, bre, polymer/oligomer
or monomer recycling
Peer-reviewed studies published in academic journals
Dahlbo et al. (2017) Both CO, PES, CV Cellulosics (CO, CV, etc.),
PES, unspecied
Fibre, polymer/oligomer
Esteve-Turrillas and de la Guardia (2017) Recycling N/A CO Fibre
Fortuna and Diyamandoglu (2017) Both CO CO Polymer/oligomer
Zamani et al. (2017) Reuse CO, PES, EA N/A N/A
Bamonti et al. (2016) Recycling N/A WO Fibre
Vergara et al. (2016) Reuse CO N/A N/A
Yasin et al. (2016) Recycling N/A CO Fibre
Castellani et al. (2015) Reuse Unspecied N/A N/A
Zamani et al. (2015) Recycling N/A CO, PES Fabric, polymer/oligomer,
Pegoretti et al. (2014) Recycling N/A CO Fibre
Corsten et al. (2013) Both Unspecied PET bottles Unspecied
Glew et al. (2012) Recycling N/A CO, WO Fibre
Liang et al. (2012) Recycling N/A Unspecied Fibre
Muthu et al. (2012a) Recycling N/A CO, PES Unspecied
Muthu et al. (2012b) Recycling N/A CO, PES, CV, WO, PA, PAN,
Shen et al. (2012) Recycling N/A PET bottles (petrochemical
and biobased)
Intini and Kühtz (2011) Recycling N/A PET bottles Polymer/oligomer
Shen et al. (2011) Recycling N/A PET bottles Polymer/oligomer
Farrant et al. (2010) Both CO, PES CO Fabric
Shen et al. (2010a,b) Recycling N/A PET bottles Polymer/oligomer, monomer
Woolridge et al. (2006) Both CO, PES CO Fabric, bres
Other types of studies
Spathas (2017) Recycling N/A CO, PES, PET bottles, unspecied Fibres, polymer/oligomer
Bodin (2016) Both Unspecied CO, PES, CV, WO, PA Fabric
Schmidt et al. (2016) Both CO, PES, WO CO, PES, WO, unspecied Fibre, polymer/oligomer, monomer
ack (2015) Reuse CO, PES N/A N/A
Ostlund et al. (2015) Recycling N/A CO, PES Fibre, polymer/oligomer, monomer
Beton et al. (2014) Both CO, PES, CV, WO, LI,
Hagoort (2013) Recycling N/A PES Fibre, polymer/oligomer, monomer
Palm et al. (2013) Recycling N/A CO, PES, CV Fibre, polymer/oligomer, monomer
Youhanan (2013) Both CO, PES, CV CO, PES Fibre, polymer/oligomer
Fisher et al. (2011) Reuse CO, WO N/A N/A
Pesnel and Perweulz (2011) Recycling N/A CO, PES Fibre, monomer
Sahni et al. (2010) Reuse CO, CV N/A N/A
Bartl (2009) Both CO, CV CO, PES, CV Unspecied
McGill (2009) Both CO, PES, CV, WO,
CO, PES, CV, WO, PP, PA, PAN Fibre
AITEX (2007) Recycling N/A CO Fibre
Korhonen and Dahlbo (2007) Recycling N/A CO, PES, CV, WO Fibre
Allwood et al. (2006) Both CV CO Fibre
Fisher (2006) Recycling N/A CO, PES Unspecied
Fisher et al. (2006) Recycling N/A CO, PES Fibre, unspecied
Patagonia (2006) Recycling N/A PES Monomer
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365 357
prevalence of reuse or a certain type of recycling route. As publi-
cations often cover both reuse and recycling, or several types of
recycling, the number of publications in Fig. 4 exceeds the total
number of publications (as shown in Fig. 3).
3.3. Aims and scopes of publications
The most commonly stated aim is some version of to assess the
environmental impact of X. This is the case in about 60% of the
publications (we refrain from providing an exact number as the
aims are phrased in many different ways, making an unequivocal
interpretation difcult). In other words, the aim is commonly
described as what is done in the study, rather than why it is done
and the intended use of the results. So from an LCA methodological
perspective, either the aims are poorly phrased, or the studies of
textile reuse and recycling are driven by an interest or curiosity to
increase knowledge, rather than to support specic informational
needs, such as the data required by ecolabelling schemes (Clancy
et al., 2015) or green public procurement decisions (Hall et al.,
2016). In either case, this makes it difcult for us to generalise
regarding the intended use of the publications and to what extent
methods and scopes generally have been designed to full the
Fig. 2. Prevalence of combinations of studied reuse/recycling routes and studied materials. Numbers correspond to the number of cases examining reuse, or a specic recycling
route, for a certain material. For example, there are only ve publications of fabric recycling, but three of those cover fabric recycling of several materials, adding up to total of 20
studied cases of fabric recycling.
Fig. 3. Number of publications of environmental assessments of textile reuse and recycling, per year, from 2003 to June 2017.
Fig. 4. Prevalence of environmental assessments of reuse and various types of recycling in publications from 2003 to June 2017. (NB: The sum of columns in a yearsum of
publications in a year.)
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365358
intended use. Among the studies that do elaborate on the use of the
results, national policy development is a frequent theme (see, e.g.,
Fortuna and Diyamandoglu, 2017;Schmidt et al., 2016;
et al., 2015;Corsten et al., 2013;Palm et al., 2013;Fisher, 2006;
Fisher et al., 2006).
Thirty, or 73%, of the studies concern reuse/recycling of waste
generated in Europe, in which the Nordic countries (10 studies), the
UK (7) and Italy (4) dominate. In most of these cases, the pre-
sumably replaced production processes, and sometimes also recy-
cling processes, are assumed to be located in Asia. To some extent,
the dominance of the UK and the Nordic countries could be
explained by the languages considered in the review: English and
Swedish. Still, there are more studies written in the English lan-
guage exploring recycling in Sweden (7) than in the USA (3), an
English-speaking country with about 30 times larger population
than Sweden. This indicates that the interest for textile reuse and
recycling (or at least the environmental impact thereof) is indeed
greater in Europe than elsewhere, with a particularly strong in-
terest in Northern Europe.
3.4. Methods used in publications
All 41 publications are either a full LCA or a streamlined/partial
LCA, or use LCA data as input. A common type of a streamlined LCA
is those focussing solely on climate impact, i.e. carbon footprints
(see Yasin et al., 2016;Vergara et al., 2016;Glew et al., 2012;Muthu
et al., 2012a;Korhonen and Dahlbo, 2007). In addition to these ve
publications, 11 studies cover only climate impact and one or two
inventory-level indicators (energy and/or water use). An example
of a partial LCA is AITEX (2007), which omits the life cycle impact
assessment (one of the four mandatory LCA phases according to the
ISO 14040 standard (ISO, 2006)), presenting results in terms of
inventory indicators only. Examples where LCA data is used as
input are: Muthu et al. (2012b), which use LCA data as input when
applying a multi-dimensional indicator for rating the potential of
textile recycling of various bres; Fisher (2006) and Fisher et al.
(2006), which combine scenario analyses on UK waste ows with
LCA data to quantify environmental benets of various policy op-
tions; and Fortuna and Diyamandoglu (2017), which combine a
material ow analysis with LCA-based emission factors to optimise
reuse strategies and practices with regard to greenhouse gas
The high prevalence of LCA methodology is not surprising
considering the search strings employed (see section 2.1), but to
nd LCA elements in all reviewed studies indicate a consensus that
LCA or some element of LCA is necessary for quantifying the envi-
ronmental impact of textile reuse and recycling. Our interpretation
is that the life cycle perspective is widely viewed as essential for
capturing the environmentally relevant consequences of textile
reuse and recycling: another type of end-of-life management
compared to non-reuse/recycling scenarios and the presumably
resulting avoidance of production processes.
3.5. Allocation procedures and replacement rates
Allocation procedures of many kinds have been employed in the
reviewed publications, including the use of system expansion, cut-
offs and mass and economic allocation. Uniquely, Pegoretti et al.
(2014) employed a 50/50 split of impacts between virgin and
recycled products, a method that has existedfor many years (Ekvall,
1994) and has received a regulatory boost from the publication of
the BP X 30-323-0 standard by the French government and its in-
clusion in the EC's Operational Environmental Footprint guidelines
(EC, 2013)esee Pelletier et al. (2014) for a discussion. Nevertheless,
the most frequent allocation methods encountered in our review
are cut-off allocation for recycled input materials and system
expansion for reused products and products made from recycled
materials. In other words, authors most often assume that the
material input to recycling systems is a waste free of environmental
burdens, and that reused products and products made from recy-
cled materials substitute functionally equivalent products made
from virgin bres.
The calculation of the benets of substitution depends on to
what extent production is replaced (the replacement rate/factor).
Most studies assume a 1:1 replacement rate without justication,
which is problematic. This reduces the reliability of the evidence
which these studies show for the environmental advantages of
textile reuse and recycling. Studies to identify actual replacement
rates have been conducted (Castellani et al., 2015;Stevenson and
Gmitrowicz, 2012;Farrant et al., 2010;Thomas, 2003), and
different replacement rates (i.e. not 1:1) have been considered for
in some of the reviewed publications (Dahlbo et al., 2017;Fortuna
and Diyamandoglu, 2017;Schmidt et al., 2016;Vergara et al.,
Ostlund et al., 2015;Bjurb
ack, 2015;Corsten et al., 2013;
Farrant et al., 2010;McGill, 2009). Looking at the dates of these
publications, concern for this issue appears to be increasing. All
publications employing several replacement rates have found that
the choice of replacement rate inuences results considerably.
Dahlbo et al. (2017) conclude that replacement rates as low as 50%
may still result in environmental benets both for textile reuse and
recycling. Similarly, Schmidt et al. (2016) found environmental
benets for textile reuse for replacement rates as low as 10%. In
contrast, Fortuna and Diyamandoglu (2017) found that low
replacement rates can, under certain conditions, make textile reuse
an environmentally inferior alternative compared to both inciner-
ation and recycling.
For reuse, a 1:1 replacement rate presumes that the new owner
of the reused item uses the item as many times as the owner would
have used a brand new item, which has been shown to be unre-
alistic (see, e.g., Castellani et al., 2015;Farrant et al., 2010). For
recycling, a 1:1 replacement rate may be more realistic, at least for
bres produced via polymer/oligomer or monomer recycling, as the
bres are of quality comparable to bres from virgin resources.
However, increased bre production via recycling may increase
total global bre supply and thereby reduce the price and increase
the demand for bres. In other words, some of the benets of
textile recycling might be counteracted by increased consumption
(a rebound effect(Gielen and Moriguchi, 2002)). So whether a 1:1
replacement rate is a good enough approximation depends on the
price elasticity of demand for textile bres. To conclude, there is a
need to further study the replacement rates of various bres, ma-
terials and products, in various geographical contexts, and to apply
these replacements in studies of the environmental impact of
textile reuse and recycling.
It should be noted that in studies where a credit for replaced
production is not directly assigned to the studied product, a com-
parison is still often made with a (presumably) functionally
equivalent product made from virgin resources. Often such com-
parisons are made on a mass basis efor example, Spathas (2017)
compares virgin and (partly) recycled yarn on a mass basis. Such
mass-based comparisons inherently presume a 1:1 replacement
rate. Also, comparisons based on items rather than mass (e.g., a T-
shirt made by recycled bres vs. a T-shirt made by virgin bres)
often presumes a 1:1 replacement rate, unless the functional unit is
related to the use of the item and the number of uses is assumed to
differ between the compared items. So it can be important to
consider replacement rates also in studies where a credit for
replaced production is not directly assigned to the studied product,
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365 359
but comparisons still are made with non-recycled/reused items.
Related to the choice of replacement rate, is the common
assumption that the recycled bre only gets one additional use
cycle. Perhaps this is why allocation by bre length has not been
employed in any of the reviewed studies. This method is an adap-
tation of the idea of allocation based on loss of quality (Tillman and
Baumann, 2004). In this case, for i¼(1,n) use cycles:
product i
¼total life cycle impact$
fibre length
product i
fibre length
product i
The French government has an extended producer re-
sponsibility target under which textile retailers will be required to
ensure that 50% of the textiles sold are subsequently collected and
the majority recycled for material or energy recovery (Dubois et al.,
2016). The target is not yet met, but if recovery rates for used tex-
tiles increase signicantly, the issue of bre length may become
more problematic for subsequent use cycles. While presumably
unproblematic for monomer recycling scenarios, successive
reduction in the bre length of the recycled fabrics or bres over
multiple reuse or recycling life cycles would reduce the range of
functions available to manufacturers, and allocation based on bre
length may become an obvious alternative for analysts wishing to
avoid the uncertainties associated with system expansion and
replacement rates.
3.6. Impact categories and inventory indicators
As mentioned in the above discussion about methods employed,
several studies are limited to only considering the impact category
of climate change. As climate change is also considered in all
remaining publications except two eSahni et al. (2010) and AITEX
(2007) eit is by far the most studied impact category or inventory
indicator. Global Warming Potential with a 100 year time horizon
(GWP100) is most often the employed characterisation method for
climate change, which is consistent with LCAs of other product
categories (e.g., as concluded in the literature review of forest
product LCAs by Røyne et al. (2016)). A few studies appear to only
study CO
emissions, without characterisation (e.g., Yasin et al.,
ack, 2015;Hagoort, 2013). The second most studied
impact category, or rather inventory indicator, is total energy use
(i.e., not distinguishing between renewable and non-renewable
energy use), which is studied in 18 publications. Acidication (of
some kind) and eutrophication (of some kind) are studied in 17
publications each, followed by water use/consumption/depletion
(14), ecotoxicity (of some kind; 12), photochemical oxidant for-
mation (12), human toxicity (of some kind; 10), ozone layer
depletion (9), abiotic depletion (6), now-renewable energy use (6),
particulate matter formation (5), ionising radiation (4), and waste
(in kg; 4). Thirteen other impact categories/inventory indicators
have been studied in three or less publications. Six publications
include some kind of weighting, either endpoint indicators com-
plementing midpoint indicators (Dahlbo et al., 2017;Beton et al.,
2014;Palm et al., 2013;Farrant et al., 2010), or end-point in-
dicators without showing results for the contributing midpoint
indicators (Muthu et al., 2012b;Allwood et al., 2006). AITEX (2007)
attempts to assess a range of impacts, but by omitting the charac-
terisation and merely presenting results in, among others, the total
mass (in kg) of atmospheric emissions and chemicals, the results
become rather meaningless. Bjurb
ack (2015) presents total chem-
ical use in mass, but also more disintegrated inventory-level met-
rics (CO
emissions, NOx emissions, SO
emissions, water
consumption, fertilizers (in tonnes) and pesticides (in tonnes)),
which makes the results more meaningful. Some studies include
non-environmental indicators, such as costs and jobs created, but
these are not further discussed in the present review as they are
beyond our scope. Fig. 5 summarises the prevalence of impact
categories and inventory indicators covered in more than three
studies each. Full information on the employed impact categories
and inventory indicators can be found in the supplementary
Because of the strong focus on climate change, there is a risk
that many studies have not managed to identify all the major
environmental gains and losses of textile reuse and recycling. For
example, as the potential avoidance of the production of virgin
conventional cotton has been shown to be an important environ-
mental gain of textile reuse (Dahlbo et al., 2017;Roos et al., 2017;
Sahni et al., 2010;Woolridge et al., 2006) and recycling (Esteve-
Turrillas and de la Guardia, 2017;Yasin et al., 2016;
Ostlund et al.,
2015;Muthu et al., 2012a;Allwood et al., 2006), it is important to
include impact categories corresponding to the environmental is-
sues associated with conventional cotton, namely water depletion
and toxicity (Roos et al., 2015a;Micklin, 2007). Likewise, land use
and land transformation, and subsequent impacts on biodiversity,
may be relevant impact categories/inventory indicators to account
for to fully capture the benets of avoiding production of virgin
biobased bres. Unfortunately, land use or land transformation has
only been considered in three of the reviewed publications. Also
toxicity should be an important impact category in many studies of
textile reuse, as reuse implies the avoidance of later production
stages in the textile life cycle closely associated with toxicity issues,
such as wet treatment processes (Roos et al., 2015b). So the com-
mon narrow focus on climate change and energy use may not
capture the real benets of many types of textile reuse and recy-
cling, thereby potentially contributing to problem shifting, i.e. that
we mitigate climate change by increasing other environmental
impacts, such as toxicity and the consequences of land trans-
formation. We thus recommend that authors attempt to select a
broader set of relevant impact categories, a selection that should be
connected to the major environmental gains and losses which
could be expected to be associated with the studied system, for
example by considering previous studies giving broad overviews of
the environmental hotspots of textile supply chains (such as Roos
et al., 2015a;Beton et al., 2014;Allwood et al., 2006). Moreover,
authors in general need to be better at motivating the choice of
impact categories and inventory indicators and at specifying which
characterisation methods that have been used ethis would greatly
improve the transparency of the studies. Also when utilising the
data/results of others it is important to clearly show the charac-
terisation methods used eespecially when combining input from
different studies, to avoid comparing or aggregating apples and
3.7. Sources of primary inventory data
Finding inventory data (i.e. data on resource use and emissions
of processes of the studied system) is often a challenging task when
conducting environmental assessment. To help environmental
assessment practitioners in nding inventory data, Table 2 lists
primary inventory data which is available in the 41 reviewed
publications and which pertains to textile recycling systems. Other
inventory data used in the publications were either secondary (i.e.,
from other publications or commercial databases, most often the
Ecoinvent or Gabi Professional databases), not displayed (e.g.
because of condentiality), or not on textile recycling or reuse
systems (but on, e.g., benchmark products made from virgin re-
sources). Also, Table 2 excludes inventory data on transportation
modes and distances (e.g. in the collection of textiles), as these are
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365360
highly specic for the context of the study and thus of less interest
to replicate for other studies.
3.7. Linkages between studies and citations
Fig. 6 shows the citations made between the reviewed publi-
cations. In cases in which a citation is made to a previous version or
background report of the publication esuch as a citation to the
master's thesis by Farrant (2008) which later was turned into the
peer-reviewed paper Farrant et al. (2010) ewe consider this to be a
valid citation to the reviewed publication as well. An exception to
this are citations to Roos et al. (2015a) ea background report for
Zamani et al. (2017) eas all such citations refer to content of the
report not related to Zamani et al. (2017). Furthermore, we have
primarily looked for citations included in the reference list of each
publication, but if encountered we have also included citations
found in gures, tables or footnotes, also when these are missing in
the reference list. Nonetheless, it is possible some such citations
have escaped our mapping. A table with all the identied citations
can be found in the supplementary material.
Based on the number of citations from other environmental
assessments of reuse/recycling, Woolridge et al. (2006) appears to
be considered the seminal piece of work among the reviewed
studies, with 15 citations, followed by Allwood et al. (2006) with 10
citations and Farrant et al. (2010) with 9 citations. Reasons for their
popularity could be that they are relativelyearly work and that they
cover both reuse and recycling, thus rendering attention from reuse
as well as recycling studies. Also, they are not master's thesis, which
tend to be harder to discover and perhaps are therefore less cited
(see, e.g., Bartl (2009) and McGill (2009), which are relatively early
work covering both reuse and recycling, but still have not garnered
more than one citation each from the other publications in our
review). Perhaps there is also a snowball effect, i.e. that authors
cite a publication because others have cited it rather than because
its content and quality (Benito-Le
on and Louis, 2013). Among more
recent work, Zamani et al. (2015) and Beton et al. (2014) stand out,
with 6 citations each. Notably, peer-reviewed publications have, on
average, more citations: about 0.8 citations per year, compared to
0.4 for publications not subject to peer-review (accounting for
studies published before 2016).
In additional to mapping the citations made between the
reviewed publications, for the peer-reviewed papers we also
mapped the overall number of citations from other peer-reviewed
papers, in total and per year, using the reference managing service
of Mendeley (see the supplementary material for details). Non-
peer-reviewed studies were not included in this analysis, as their
citations are not indexed by Mendeley or any other similar service.
Excluding the most recent publications (from 2016 to 2017), for
which the data is prone to error, numbers of publications per year
span from 1.6 for Shen et al. (2012) to 13.6 for Shen et al. (2010b);
interestingly, the latter was not identied as a seminal piece of
work in the above analysis, which suggests it has attracted a more
general interest beyond the narrow research area of environmental
assessments of textile recycling. Next to Shen et al. (2010b),
Fig. 5. Number of publications covering certain impact categories and inventory indicators. In addition to these, 13 impact categories and inventory indicators are covered in three
or less publications.
Table 2
Description of primary inventory data published in the reviewed studies. Only data pertaining to textile recycling or reuse systems are included in the table.
Author and year of publication Description of primary inventory data
Dahlbo et al. (2017) Energy data on manual and automatic (near-infrared, NIR) sorting
Esteve-Turrillas and de la Guardia (2017) Energy and yield data on cutting/shredding of cotton waste (the step before re-spinning of new yarn)
Bamonti et al. (2016) General inventory data on production of recycled wool
Spathas (2017) General inventory data on collection and sorting, mechanical recycling, and chemical recycling
Bodin (2016) Energy data on waste management facility and two sorting facilities
Pegoretti et al. (2014) Energy data for the production of automotive acoustic panels (partly based on recycled textile materials)
Glew et al. (2012) Energy data on the production of beds and pocket spring mattresses (partly based on recycled textile materials)
Intini and Kühtz (2011) General inventory data on PET bottle-to-bre recycling
Patagonia (2006) Energy and CO
emission data on dimethyl terephthalate (DMT) production from recycled PET
Woolridge et al. (2006) Energy and plastic bag use in a textile reuse system (depot, shops)
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365 361
Woolridge et al. (2006) and Liang et al. (2012) have gained most
citations per year, 7.1 and 5.8, respectively. This supports the above
conclusion that the work by Woolridge and colleagues is seen as a
seminal piece of work. The remaining papers have received be-
tween 2.8 and 4.7 citations per year. The mean number of annual
citations is 4.7.
3.8. Findings ethe environmental potential of textile reuse and
All reviewed publications except one indicate potential envi-
ronmental benets with textile reuse and/or recycling. The excep-
tion is Liang et al. (2012), who study the environmental impact of
paper produced from various waste materials and conclude that
textile waste is a questionable feedstock compared to other waste
materials (for the technological pathways studied). That is, Liang
and colleagues do not compare textile recycling with other textile
waste options. So the reviewed literature provides strong support
for the claim that textile reuse and recycling are, in general, pref-
erable waste management options compared to incineration and
landlling. When reuse and recycling are both considered, the
former is found to be more benecial than the latter (Dahlbo et al.,
2017;Schmidt et al., 2016;Zamani et al., 2015;Beton et al., 2014;
Corsten et al., 2013;Palm et al., 2013;Farrant et al., 2010;McGill,
2009;Bartl, 2009), except for under certain circumstances with
regard to transportation distances (Fortuna and Diyamandoglu,
2017). Thus, the literature strongly supports the waste manage-
ment options preferred according to the waste hierarchy, as pro-
moted by, among others, the EU directive on waste (EC, 2008).
The above conclusion holds for textile reuse and recycling in
general. The literature also exposes scenarios under which textile
reuse and recycling are not environmentally benecial. For
example, as the benets of reuse and recycling are mainly due to
the avoidance of the manufacturing of new products, low
replacement rates can eliminate the benets (as was discussed in
section 3.5). Moreover, Shen et al. (2012) show that the choice of
allocation method for handling open-loop recycling can strongly
inuence the preference of a recycled bre compared to a virgin
bre. Shen et al. (2012) show that recycled bres do not necessarily
have lower environmental impact compared to all types of virgin
Ostlund et al. (2015) show that under certain assumptions,
there is a risk that textile recycling causes certain types of envi-
ronmental impacts to increase. In their case, it was shown that
climate impact can increase if recycling processes are powered by
fossil energy and/or if virgin cotton as a consequence is assumed to
be replaced, as cotton is a bre associated with relatively low
climate impact. That certain environmental impact can increase,
while others decrease, was also shown by Shen et al. (2010a,b) and
Schmidt et al. (2016) for textile recycling, and by Bodin (2016) for
textile reuse. Some authors identify the issue that unless the use
phase is sufciently extended, the additional transport and other
efforts associated with additional life cycles may exceed the ben-
ets of avoided production (Fortuna and Diyamandoglu, 2017;
Zamani et al., 2017). Also, in scenarios where the overall environ-
mental impact is indeed reduced, there is a risk of problem shifting
between geographical regions. For example, Allwood et al. (2006)
identied that increased recycling in the UK may reduce cotton
cultivation (and associated environmental impact) in the USA, but
increase energy use (and associated environmental impact) in the
UK. Finally, it should be noted that collection and/or sorting of
textile waste were fully or partly excluded in about half of the
studies. In a few of these studies, collection and/or sorting were
excluded because of the goal and scope, in others they were
excluded because they were assumed to be negligible. Nonetheless,
Fig. 6. Citations between the reviewed publications. Peer-reviewed publications are in blue boxes and other publications are in orange boxes. The information can also be found in a
table in the supplementary material. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred to the Web version of this article.)
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365362
the common exclusion of collection and sorting indicates that
several studies have underestimated the environmental impact of
reuse and recycling systems.
To conclude, the reviewed publications elucidate several po-
tential stumbling blocks for achieving environmental benets by
increasing textile reuse and recycling. These need to be considered
when promoting and designing new textile reuse and recycling
systems, to avoid scenarios in which reuse and recycling lead to
greater impacts. Also, the potential stumbling blocks serve as a
reminder that analysts of the environmental impactof textile reuse
and recycling should adopt a life cycle perspective, consider
collection and sorting processes, consider all relevant impact cat-
egories, and clearly describe and motivate key methodological
choices and assumptions. Otherwise, potential stumbling blocks
may not be identied.
3.9. Gaps and further research
The review has identied gaps in the literature which hopefully
can serve as inspiration for future studies.
First, there is a need for more detailed studies, including the
generation of updated and publicly available primary inventory
data, particularly for collection and sorting processes (which are
often excluded) and for monomer and polymer recycling processes.
Monomer and polymer recycling have been studied in several of
the reviewed studies, but the modelling is sometimes based on
rough estimates and/or old inventory data. For example, the
modelling of synthetic monomer recycling in Zamani et al. (2015)
and Schmidt et al. (2016), and one of the four synthetic monomer
recycling models in Shen et al. (2010a,b), are based on inventory
data from Patagonia (2006), originally from the Japanese company
Teijin. This data is from an unspecied year of origin and lack in-
formation on, for example, recovery rates of certain chemicals used
in the processes. Similarly, the modelling of cellulose polymer
recycling in
Ostlund et al. (2015) and Zamani et al. (2015) are based
on some rough estimates (due to a lack of available data), resulting
in relatively uncertain results. Data from the latter has subse-
quently been used as input to the studies of Dahlbo et al. (2017) and
Fortuna and Diyamandoglu (2017), thus reproducing the un-
certainties. As indicated in Table 2, only 10 of the 41 reviewed
studies contain primary data on reuse or recycling processes.
Additional, up-to-date, veried and transparent inventory data
would greatly increase the reliability of future environmental as-
sessments of these processes.
Secondly, there is a lack of studies of the environmental po-
tential of cascade systems designed to get the most out of a given
virgin or recycled material. For example, such a system could
include a certain number of reuse and fabric/bre recycling loops,
followed by a certain number of polymer/oligomer/monomer
recycling loops when the average bre length has been reduced to a
certain length (this connects to the discussion in section 3.5 about
allocation based on bre length). In other words, there is a lack of
studies exploring the limits of textile reuse and recycling, and the
benets of combining different types of reuse and recycling routes.
Thirdly, as mentioned in section 3.5, there is a need for studies
on actual replacement rates for textile reuse and recycling, for
various markets and product types. Also, there is a need to
increasingly account for such realistic replacement rates in studies
of the environmental impact of textile reuse and recycling. This
would be a key advancement for increasing the reliability of such
Finally, there is a lack of studies of future systems. Some of the
reviewed publications do consider future recycling technologies
Ostlund et al., 2015), but it would be valuable to see more
explorative studies accounting for changes in background systems,
which are also in constant ux. For example, it would be interesting
to explore the preferred end-of-life treatment for textiles in sce-
narios in which production, recycling processes and/or trans-
portation processes are to a larger extent powered by renewable
energy. Such studies could provide useful guidance for designing
future reuse and recycling systems for optimal environmental
performance, and to prepare (and possibly push) for different po-
tential future developments in the surrounding world.
4. Conclusions
In the present paper, we reviewed studies of the environmental
impact of textile reuse and recycling. Below, the main ndings are
Based on the selection criteria (see section 2.1), we found 41
publications, whereof 21 are peer-reviewed and 20 are other
types of publications.
Eighty-ve percent of the publications deal with recycling, 44%
with reuse, and 29% with both reuse and recycling. Fibre recy-
cling is the most studied recycling type (57%), followed by
polymer/oligomer recycling (37%), monomer recycling (23%),
and fabric recycling (14%).
Cotton is the most studied material (76%), followed by polyester
(63%), viscose (25%) and wool (20%).
The number of publications has increased over time, from about
1.5 per year a decade ago to about 4.5 per year in recent years.
Europe (especially the Nordic countries) is over-represented in
terms of geographical scopes.
In terms of critical methodological assumptions, authors most
often assume that textiles sent to recycling are wastes free of
environmental burden (i.e., cut-off allocation) and that reused
products and products made from recycled materials replace
products made from virgin bres (i.e., system expansion).
Assumptions about the replaced production of new products
inuence results considerably, thus the choice of replacement
rate is crucial. Often a 1:1 rate is assumed, but there is a need for
studies on actual replacement rates for textile reuse and recy-
cling, and to apply such replacement rates in assessments of
textile reuse and recycling. Also, there is a need to test other
allocation methods for the incoming recycled material. For
example, allocation based on bre length may be an attractive
Climate change is by far the most studied impact category. It is
covered in 39 out of 41 studies, with the second most studied
indicator being energy use, covered in 18 studies. Often only one
or a few indicators are studied, introducing a risk that relevant
impacts are missed, potentially contributing to problem shifting
and sub-optimisation. We thus recommend that authors to a
greater extent select a broader set of relevant impact categories.
The reviewed publications provide strong support for claims
that textile reuse and recycling in general reduce environmental
impact compared to incineration and landlling, and that reuse
is more benecial than recycling. Benets mainly arise because
of the assumed avoidance of production of new products.
The studies also expose scenarios under which reuse and recy-
cling may not be benecial, for example in cases of low
replacement rates, if recycling processes are powered by fossil
energy, or if the avoided production processes are relatively
clean. Also, for reuse, induced customer transport may cause
environmental impact that exceeds the benets of avoided
production, unless the use phase is sufciently extended. These
potential stumbling blocks for textile recycling and reuse need
G. Sandin, G.M. Peters / Journal of Cleaner Production 184 (2018) 353e365 363
to be considered when promoting and designing new textile
reuse and recycling systems.
There is a need for more studies and the generation of more
inventory data, particularly on processes such as collection,
sorting, monomer recycling and polymer recycling.
There is need of more studies of the environmental potential of
cascade systems designed to get the most out of a given virgin or
recycled material.
The research was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020
research and innovation programme, through the Trash-2-Cash
project (grant agreement No. 646226), and by Mistra, the Swed-
ish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, through the
Mistra Future Fashion research programme. Also, we would like to
thank Dr. Hanna de la Motte for discussions regarding the technical
descriptions of textile recycling processes.
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... These waste yarns are either reused in textile operations or discarded as waste. It depends upon various factors such as required fiber length, strength, cleanliness, and capability for homogeneous mixing/blending based on the condition and composition of yarn (Sandin and Peters 2018). The yarn wastes are of basically three types: natural (cotton, jute linen, silk, etc.), manmade (polyester, polypropylene, nylon, etc.), and blended/mixed of natural and manmade (polyester-viscose blend, polyester-cotton blend, etc.) yarns, as shown in Fig. 3. Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. ...
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An increase in population compels the textile industry to expand production to fulfill the apparel requirement, resulting in huge textile waste. These wastes are managed either by landfilling or incineration processes, which negatively contribute to the environment. Converting waste into value-added products is essential to reducing environmental pollution and thereby achieving a circular economy through proper waste management practices. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of different categories and forms of textile waste, their source of generation, the reusing capability of the textile industry, other valorization potentials in different fields, and various challenges associated with their valorization practices. This review presents textile wastes as the raw material source for preparing different value-added products such as in manufacturing textiles, packaging materials, plastics, composites, construction applications, energy generation, chemical additives, composting, and several other applications.
... We implicitly assume that no resources are required to reuse or recycle materials, which is of course unrealistic. Reuse and recycling are also linked to environmental impacts (Sandin and Peters, 2018;Williams et al., 2008). A further development of our model could therefore integrate the environmental impacts of reuse and recycling. ...
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The efficient use of natural resources is considered a necessary condition for their sustainable use. Extending the lifetime of products and using resources circularly are two popular strategies to increase the efficiency of resource use. Both strategies are usually assumed to contribute to the eco-efficiency of resource use independently. We argue that a move to a circular economy creates opportunity costs for consumers holding on to their products, due to the resource embedded in the product. Assuming rational consumers, we develop a model that determines optimal replacement times for products subject to minimizing average costs over time. We find that in a perfectly circular economy, consumers are incentivized to discard their products more quickly than in a perfectly linear economy. A direct consequence of our finding is that extending product use is in direct conflict with closing resource loops in the circular economy. We identify the salvage value of discarded products and technical progress as two factors that determine the impact that closing resource loops has on the duration of product use. The article highlights the risk that closing resource loops and moving to a more circular economy incentivizes more unsustainable behavior.
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Waste management of the nonwoven polypropylene (PP) fabric has become an emerging issue due to its increased usage. This study presents the upscale recycling of PP nonwoven fabric scrap generated during medical-grade disposable gown manufacturing. To prepare PP and carbon black (CB) nanocomposite, a two-step novel melt blending process is used. A maximum density of 937 kg/m3, shore D hardness of 74.45, and highest improvement in UV degradation resistance with a carbonyl index of 0.40 is recorded at 2 wt% of the CB while melt flow index is the lowest at 0.5 wt% of the CB. The results of this study revealed the peak melting point (161.81°C), thermal degradation temperature (421°C), highest flexural strength (49.16 MPa), and Izod impact strength (6.76 kJ/m2) are at 0.50 wt% of CB loading. A morphological study indicated that the highest agglomeration of CB particles was found at 2 wt% CB. The results showed that the optimum value of CB in PP nanocomposite is 0.5 wt%, at which the majority of the properties are maximized. This research might pave the way for the recycling of nonwoven PP waste fabric and provide an alternative to the exciting virgin raw materials.
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Wood products may help to avoid fossil emissions when they substitute for more fossil‐intensive products. However, the estimates of avoided fossil emissions attributed to wood use tend to be based on incomplete market assumptions. Wood products are assumed to fully substitute for non‐wood products, yet substitution rarely occurs 1:1 and wood products can also substitute for each other. This study outlines a systematic procedure grounded on economic theory for approximating the existence and rate of substitution between wood and non‐wood products, and calculates the marginal avoided fossil emissions with both conventional assumptions and more realistic assumptions based on an expert survey, taking the case of textile markets. The results suggest that regenerated cellulosic fibers (RCFs) are not perfect substitutes for synthetic fibers, meaning that part of an additional RCF supply will replace established textile fibers while part of it merely adds to the overall textile supply, and thereby aggregate fossil emissions. Moreover, in the long term, RCFs are more likely to substitute for synthetics than for cotton, and in the short term, non‐viscose RCFs are more likely to substitute for contemporary viscose than for polyester or cotton. In the specified case, the alteration of market assumptions leads to quadrupling the marginal substitution impacts of wood use. Besides the relatively high fossil intensity of contemporary viscose, this is partly explained by increased absolute aggregate fossil emissions. Producing a more realistic account of substitution processes in the forest products markets is central in directing investments that ensure a net reduction in fossil emissions.
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Most textile waste is either incinerated or landfilled today, yet, the material could instead be recycled through chemical recycling to new high-quality textiles. A first important step is separation since chemical recycling of textiles requires pure streams. The focus of this paper is on the separation of cotton and PET (poly(ethylene terephthalate), polyester) from mixed textiles, so called polycotton. Polycotton is one of the most common materials in service textiles used in sheets and towels at hospitals and hotels. A straightforward process using 5–15 wt% NaOH in water and temperature in the range between 70 and 90 °C for the hydrolysis of PET was evaluated on the lab-scale. In the process, the PET was degraded to terephthalic acid (TPA) and ethylene glycol (EG). Three product streams were generated from the process. First is the cotton; second, the TPA; and, third, the filtrate containing EG and the process chemicals. The end products and the extent of PET degradation were characterized using light microscopy, UV-spectroscopy, and ATR FT-IR spectroscopy, as well as solution and solid-state NMR spectroscopy. Furthermore, the cotton cellulose degradation was evaluated by analyzing the intrinsic viscosity of the cotton cellulose. The findings show that with the addition of a phase transfer catalyst (benzyltributylammonium chloride (BTBAC)), PET hydrolysis in 10% NaOH solution at 90 °C can be completed within 40 min. Analysis of the degraded PET with NMR spectroscopy showed that no contaminants remained in the recovered TPA, and that the filtrate mainly contained EG and BTBAC (when added). The yield of the cotton cellulose was high, up to 97%, depending on how long the samples were treated. The findings also showed that the separation can be performed without the phase transfer catalyst; however, this requires longer treatment times, which results in more cellulose degradation.
Technical Report
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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.
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Flame retardants (FRs) have been around us for decades to increase the chances of survival against fire or flame by limiting its propagation. The FR textiles, irrespective of their atmospheric presence are used in baby clothing, pushchairs, car seats, etc. The overall FR market in Asia, Europe, and the United States in 2007 was around 1.8 million metric tonnes. It is estimated that the worldwide consumption of FRs will reach 2.8 million tonnes in 2018. Unfortunately, a sustainable approach for textile waste, especially in the case of FR textiles, is absent. Incineration and landfill of FR textiles are hindered by various toxic outcomes. To address the need for sustainable methods of discarding FR textiles, the mechanical recycling of cotton curtains was evaluated.
Fast fashion is a clothing supply chain model that is intended to respond quickly to the latest fashion trends by frequently updating the clothing products available in stores. The shift towards fast fashion leads to shorter practical service lives for garments. Collaborative consumption is an alternative way of doing business to the conventional model of ownership-based consumption, and one that can potentially reduce the environmental impacts of fashion by prolonging the practical service life of clothes. In this study, we used life cycle assessment to explore the environmental performance of clothing libraries, as one of the possible ways in which collaborative consumption can be implemented, and compared the advantages and disadvantages in relation to conventional business models. Furthermore, the key factors influencing the environmental impact of clothing libraries were investigated. We based our assessment on three key popular garments that are stocked in clothing libraries: jeans, T-shirts and dresses. The results showed the benefits of implementing clothing libraries associated with the garments´ prolonged service lives. Therefore to achieve environmental gains, it is important to substantially increase garment service life. Moreover, the results quantitatively demonstrated the potential risk of problem shifting: increased customer transportation can completely offset the benefits gained from reduced production. This highlighted the need to account for the logistics when implementing collaborative consumption business models.
Product reuse in the solid waste management sector is promoted as one of the key strategies for waste prevention. This practice is considered to have favorable impact on the environment, but its benefits have yet to be established. Existing research describes the perspective of “avoided production” only, but has failed to examine the interdependent nature of reuse practices within an entire solid waste management system. This study proposes a new framework that uses optimization to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions of an integrated solid waste management system that includes reuse strategies and practices such as reuse enterprises, online platforms, and materials exchanges along with traditional solid waste management practices such as recycling, landfilling, and incineration. The proposed framework uses material flow analysis in combination with an optimization model to provide the best outcome in terms of GHG emissions by redistributing product flows in the integrated solid waste management system to the least impacting routes and processes. The optimization results provide a basis for understanding the contributions of reuse to the environmental benefits of the integrated solid waste management system and the exploration of the effects of reuse activities on waste prevention. A case study involving second-hand clothing is presented to illustrate the implementation of the proposed framework as applied to the material flow. Results of the case study showed the considerable impact of reuse on GHG emissions even for small replacement rates, and helped illustrate the interdependency of the reuse sector with other waste management practices. One major contribution of this study is the development of a framework centered on product reuse that can be applied to identify the best management strategies to reduce the environmental impact of product disposal and to increase recovery of reusable products.
A comparative evaluation of the life cycle assessment (LCA) of Recover cotton, obtained from recycled garments, and virgin one, cultivated from traditional and organic crops, has been made based on the quantification of environmental impact categories, such as abiotic depletion, global warming, water use, acidification and eutrophication potential. LCA data reported in the literature for the steps of cultivation, ginning/cutting, and dyeing were compared in order to clearly show the environmental advantages of moving from traditional practices, to organic cultivation and the use of Recover cotton, a novel procedure that involves the production of cotton yarns from coloured and well characterized recycled materials. Studies made evidenced that the use of organic cotton cultivation avoids the use of pesticides and chemicals, reducing environmental impacts, but maintaining those related to ginning and dyeing steps. However, the use of Recover cotton avoids the impact of both, cotton cultivation and dyeing steps, based on an appropriate selection of raw materials obtained from textile wastes, being only increased the energy costs of cutting/shredding processes as compared to ginning ones. In short, it can be concluded that the use of Recover cotton for the production of high quality textiles involves an added value of the products from an environmental point of view, being costs and electrical consumes also reduced and providing a second life for produced textiles.
The Mistra Future Fashion research programme (2011–2019) is a large Swedish investment aimed at reducing the environmental impact of clothing consumption. Midway into the programme, research results and insights were reviewed with the intent to see what picture appears from this interdisciplinary consortium, developed to address the multiple sustainability challenges in clothing consumption and the tools for intervention. Such tools comprise product design, consumer behaviour changes, policy development, business models, technical development, recycling, life cycle assessment (LCA) and social life cycle assessment (SLCA). This chapter quantifies the extent of the sustainability challenge for the apparel sector, via an analysis of five garment archetypes. It also considers to what extent different interventions for impact reduction can contribute in society’s endeavour towards sustainability, in terms of staying within an “environmentally safe and socially just operating space”, inspired by the planetary boundaries approach. In particular, the results show whether commonly proposed interventions are sufficient or not in relation to the impact reduction necessary according to the planetary boundaries. Also, the results clarify which sustainability aspects that the clothing industry are likely to manage sufficiently if the proposed interventions are realised and which sustainability aspects that will require more radical interventions in order to reach the targets.
The global textile fiber production, consumption of textiles and amounts of textile waste are constantly growing. The increase of textile waste has also been demonstrated in sorting studies performed for the municipal solid waste, where the share of textiles has grown. Ideally, recycling and, even more so, reusing textiles can reduce the production of new textiles from virgin materials and hence reduce the use of water, energy and chemicals in the production chain. The aim of the study was to ascertain the flows of textiles and textile waste currently in Finland and assess the environmental performance of the current system. In addition, the possible consequences of a significant increase in the reuse or recycling of discarded textiles were analyzed. Finally, an assessment on the policy measures available for increasing textile circulation was performed.
The environmental challenges associated with consumption of textiles have generally been investigated on product level in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies. For social sustainability aspects, social hotspot analysis has instead been applied on the textile sector level. The aim with the industry sector approach developed by the authors was to enable assessment of different interventions in terms of how they contribute to reaching targets for environmental and social sustainability, on the sector level. The approach was tested in a case study on the Swedish apparel sector.