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The circular economy model has recently gained a lot of attention worldwide from scientists, business people and authorities. The importance of the transition towards a more circular economy has also been noticed in the European Union. The new regulations provide the enabling framework for the circular economy to flourish. At the same time, although there is no standardized approach to creating a circular economy, while defining appropriate policies, care must be taken that they are suitable for particular industries. The limits of the present linear economy model (take-make-waste) are extremely apparent when examining the textile and clothing industry. The transition to a circular economy requires significant changes in both production and consumption models. This article uses a literature review and industry examples to identify and evaluate challenges faced by the clothing and textile industry in adapting to the circular economy model.
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Małgorzata Koszewska
Lodz University of Technology, Faculty of Management and Production Engineering, Department of Production Management and Logistics, Wolczanska 215,
90-924 Lodz, Poland
1. Introduction
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the present linear (take-
make dispose) model of economy has slim chances of eectively
adopting sustainable development principles. Consequently,
the circular economy (CE) model is gaining more and more
attention. It is dened as an industrial system that is restorative
or regenerative by intention and design, uses and reuses natural
capital as eciently as possible, and nds value throughout
products’ life cycles [26,29]. It also involves the introduction of
principles such as sustainable design strategies, zero-waste
design, product-life extension, resource recovery, repair and
remanufacture services [4]. We could say that the CE framework
is shaped by the 3R (reduce, reuse, recycle) principles that
should be applied throughout the whole cycle of production,
consumption and return of resources and the circular model
requires the engagement of all market the participants [20].
The importance of the transition towards a circular economy
has been noticed in the European Union (EU). A major
momentum of this transition was the creation of the Circular
Economy Package and its adoption by the European
Commission on December 2, 2015. With a view to closing
the loop of product lifecycles, the package was provided with
an Action Plan to support the circular economy in each step
of the value chain. The European Commission will continue
to deliver on the Circular Economy Action Plan, setting very
concrete targets for the Member States and their industries that
will have to be met in the near future. Moving away from the
“take, make, use and dispose” paradigm towards the circular
one involves the replacement of the end-of-life concept,
restoration of resources, the use of renewable energy, the
elimination of toxic chemicals from use, and the elimination
of waste through the superior design of materials, products,
systems and business models [29]. In designing the transition
towards the circular economy, one has to bear in mind that the
process has not been standardized and the policies making the
circular economy more implementable must be appropriate for
particular industries. The limits of the present linear economy
model (take-make-waste) are well illustrated by the textile and
clothing sector, an essential consumer goods industry. The
necessity to move towards the circular model of economy is
also indicated by the industry experts and practitioners. In a
recent document “Strategic Innovation and Research Agenda
for the European Textile and Clothing Industry” released by the
European Technology Platform for the Future of Textiles and
Clothing, the theme “Circular Economy & Resource Eciency”
was highlighted as one of the four strategic innovation areas
that have special importance for further development of the
European textile and clothing industry. The textile research,
technology and industry experts from across Europe working
on the document also named three powerful innovation trends
that will impact the industry in the coming years, all of which
are very closely related to the new circular economic model.
These are [27]:
1. digitization of products, their design, manufacturing,
distribution and retail processes, consumer/end-user
interaction, factories, workplaces and supply chains
2. sustainability, circularity and resource eciency of
materials, processes and overall business operations;
this trend requires transparent supply chains meeting the
environmental, health and social legislation standards
The circular economy model has recently gained a lot of attention worldwide from scientists, business people
and authorities. The importance of the transition towards a more circular economy has also been noticed in the
European Union. The new regulations provide the enabling framework for the circular economy to ourish. At the
same time, although there is no standardized approach to creating a circular economy, while dening appropriate
policies, care must be taken that they are suitable for particular industries. The limits of the present linear economy
model (take-make-waste) are extremely apparent when examining the textile and clothing industry. The transition
to a circular economy requires signicant changes in both production and consumption models. This article uses a
literature review and industry examples to identify and evaluate challenges faced by the clothing and textile industry
in adapting to the circular economy model.
Circular economy, recycling, closing the loop, textile and clothing industry
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX
3. new business and consumption models based on
the sharing of productive resources and nal products,
servitisation, pay-per-use or subscription models, all moving
us towards collaborative or sharing economy
The rise of these new, very broad and potentially far-reaching
trends brings both challenges and opportunities for the textile
and clothing industry.
Based on literature review and industry examples, this article
aims to identify and evaluate the challenges that the clothing
and textile industry will face in adapting to the circular economy
2. The limits of the current linear model of
production and consumption in the textile and
clothing industry
Textile and clothing production is a major component of the
European manufacturing industry. According to Euratex [31],
in 2016, 177,700 textile and clothing companies (EU-28) with
employment of over 1.7 million people had a turnover of €171
billion and invested €4.8 billion. The industry accounts for a
3% share of the value-added goods and a 6% share of the
employment in the total manufacturing in Europe. With nominal
sales of over $450 billion globally, the industry is also one of
the biggest [24] and unfortunately, one of the most harmful to
the environment [24,1]. The environmental issues are typically
related to the use of energy, water and chemicals, direct CO2
emissions and solid waste [24]. Their environmental footprint
has dierent intensity depending on the stage of the textile or
clothing product life cycle (Table 1).
The section below presents the main factors that, in
recent years, signicantly contributed to the aggravation of
environmental problems in the textile and clothing industry. It
also outlines the trends that expose the limits of the present
linear economic model and explains why eorts should be
made to move towards the circular one.
The direct or indirect sources of most of the ecological concerns
that beset the T&C industry are related to surging consumption
and fast fashion that comes with it [17]. The fast-fashion
business model emerged in the 1980s; then, 5–10 years later,
the ever more aggressively priced fast-fashion discounters
came and gradually began to aect customer expectations
with their ability to undercut traditional clothing retailers by
50% or more [16]. Clothing companies aggressively cut costs
and streamlined their supply chains. This caused clothing
prices to fall relative to the prices of other consumer goods
and made clothing more aordable [23]. Shorter production
lead times made it possible for clothing brands to introduce
new lines more frequently. Today, Zara oers 24 new clothing
collections each year and H&M from 12 to 16 and refreshes
them weekly. Among all the European apparel companies,
the average number of clothing collections has more than
doubled, from two in a year in 2000 to about ve in a year in
2011 [23]. Consumers responded to lower prices and greater
variety of clothing by buying more items. Consequently, from
2000 to 2014 the number of garments purchased each year
by an average consumer increased by 60 percent [26]. Large
increases in clothing sales were especially observed in the
emerging economies, where more and more people enter the
middle class [26]. The authors of the recent McKinsey report
predict that if consumers in developing-countries will buy more
clothing as their purchasing power increases, clothing sales
may rise signicantly in the future. According to their estimates,
if 80 percent of the population in emerging economies
achieves by 2025 the same clothing-consumption level as the
Western world, and the apparel industry will not become more
environmentally ecient; the industry’s environmental footprint
will grow much stronger [23].
The Europeans consume substantially more clothing today
than they did two decades ago. In 2012, clothing spending in
EU-28 accounted for 4.2% of total household expenditures.
The volume of clothing purchases increased from 1996 by
40% [8]. Additionally, today clothes are made to be used
for a comparatively short time and then disposed of, as
the ubiquitous linear models of consumption dictate [12].
McKinsey asserts that across nearly every apparel category,
consumers keep clothing items about half as long as they did
15 years ago. Industrialization ushered in consumerism with
its throwaway attitude. Economic growth began to depend
on the ongoing promotion of new products and the disposal
of old ones, which were branded useless simply because the
stylistic norms emphasized their obsolescence [7]. Today,
many consumers tend to purchase more than they really need
and treat the lowest-priced garments as nearly disposable.
Some estimates indicate that such garments are likely to be
discarded after just seven or eight wears [26,23,10]. Another
negative consequence of these consumption patterns is that
the opportunities for reuse of low-value clothing at the end of its
Table 1. Major environmental issues related to product life-cycle stages
Environmental problems The most impactful stages in product life cycle
Energy consumption Production of man-made bers, yarn manufacturing, nishing processes, the washing
and drying of clothes in the use phase
Water and chemicals consumption ber growth, wet pre-treatment, dyeing, nishing and laundry
Solid waste Mainly the disposal of products at the end of their life,
textile/clothing manufacturing
Direct CO2 emissions Transportation within globally dispersed
supply chains
Source: created by the author based on [24].
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 338
useful life are few, if it quickly goes out of fashion, or has poor
appearance retention, dimensional stability, or durability [12].
Falling costs, streamlined operations, rising demand and
consumer spending contributed to a signicant growth of
clothing production,[23] which doubled between 2000 and 2014
when it exceeded 100 billion items for the rst time (nearly 14
items of clothing for every living person on the earth) [23].
The growing world population and expanding middle class, as
well as the rising standards of living, mean that this trend will
continue [19].
A natural consequence of the current apparel production and
consumption patterns is the steadily increasing demand for
bers and the swelling amounts of textile waste [6]. According
to Lenzing’ preliminarily estimates, in 2016, the world ber
consumption reached 99 million tons. Most of the bers were
oil-based synthetic bers (62.7%) followed by cellulosic and
protein-based bers (with cotton content of about 24.3%),
wood-based cellulose bers (around 6.6%), other natural bers
(around 5.3%) and wool (around 1.1%) [28]. Seeking to meet
the demand, the global ber production continues to set new
records. In 2013, it was around 85.5 million tons and is expected
to grow by 3.7% per annum reaching 130 million ton in 2025
[8,30] (Figure 4). Global production of cotton and polyester,
the two key bers for the textile industry, is predicted to grow
by 40% in the next 5 years [10]. In the past two decades, the
production of cotton rose steadily, but at a slower rate than the
production of polyester that now dominates the global ber
production [6]. Cotton accounts for nearly 33% of global textile
production, synthetic bers (including polyester, acrylic, nylon
(polyamide) and polypropylene) for about 60%, other cellulosic
for almost 4%, and wool and ux (linen) for 2.1% and 1.0%,
respectively [19].
The Circle Economy [6] estimates that an 84% increase in
the demand for textile bers in the next 20 years will stretch
resources to their breaking point. Shrinking resources and
growing production of textile bers will put more and more
strain on the environment. Cotton and polyester production
has a huge environment footprint [25]. Polyester ber and
other bers made from non-renewable fossil fuels require
signicant energy inputs and large amounts of crude oil to be
manufactured and result in signicant emissions of greenhouse
gases. Moreover, the by-products of polyester production
(e.g., volatile monomers, solvents, etc.) are discharged by
manufacturing plants with wastewater. Finally, because
polyester is not biodegradable, it takes centuries to decompose
in the environment [19,7,6].
The environmental footprint of cotton, the second biggest textile
ber with an annual production of about 25 million tons, is also
signicant [19,6]. Growing cotton takes a lot of water, land,
pesticides, and fertilizers [26]. The Circle Economy estimates
that 10% of the world’s pesticides, 25% of insecticides, and as
much as 2.5 percent of all the world’s water are consumed by
cotton, even though it takes up only 2.4% of total arable land.
Cotton is also the 3rd biggest contributor to pesticide-illness
in farmworkers [6]. Cotton is a biodegradable ber, but the
chemicals used in the nishing and dyeing processes impair
the quality of soil and groundwater upon disposal [19].
All these negative environmental impacts could be signicantly
mitigated if the textile and clothing sector chose to replace the
take-make-dispose model with a circular one. Wearing clothes
longer, eective recycling of textile waste and reusing it as raw
materials could largely reduce the demand for the end products
and bers. Textile and clothing companies can no longer ignore
the fact that the present linear model of economy has become
dysfunctional, as evidenced by limited supply of raw materials
and resources, and increasing disposal costs pointing to declining
landll capacity [1]. Figure 2 identies interacting trends that
have brought the textile and clothing industry to the limits of the
linear “take-make-dispose” economy model on the one hand and
stimulate the transition to the circular one on the other.
3. Main challenges faced by the textile and
clothing industry in transitioning to the circular
economy model
The speed and scale of the transition to circular model will
depend on knowledge, awareness and engagement of all
Figure 1. World ber production 1980-2025 Source: Tecon OrbiChem [30]
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 339
market participants. In the process, the 3R principles should be
applied throughout the whole cycle of production, consumption
and return of resources. This means that the challenges for
the textile and clothing sector will refer to reduction of material
and energy intensity, lower dispersion of toxic substances,
enhancement of the ability to recycle, maximization of the use
of renewable resources, extension of product durability and
increasing the service intensity.
The prevention of waste throughout a product life cycle and
the elimination, or at least minimization, of the percentage of
waste ending up in landlls are one of the biggest challenges
that the textile and clothing industry will have to confront while
transitioning to the circular economy. Its success will depend
on the adoption of a completely new approach to the way
products are designed, produced and consumed [10]. Eective
waste management will signicantly inuence all the 3Rs by
reducing virgin raw materials, reusing textile and clothing waste
and recycling them. However, eective waste management
strongly depends on the initial phrase of product design and
development. Below, the main challenges, barriers and risks
related to closing the loop in textile and clothing industry and
the transformation to the circular model are presented more in
3.1. Waste creation
The current linear model of textile and clothing production
and consumption (fast fashion) leads to enormous quantities
of textile waste, because clothes are discarded after being
worn for a relatively short time. There is also the issue of
overproduction; only 30% of the clothing produced today is sold
at the recommended retail price, another 30% goes in the sales
and 40% remains unsold or even fails to reach the shops [9].
Textile waste can be generally divided as per its source into
three main types (Figure 3):
1. Post-industrial waste a side-eect of clothing manufacture;
2. Pre-consumer waste – inferior quality garments at the
manufacturing site or a retailer’s distribution center, unsold
merchandise at the retail store;
3. Post-consumer waste – generated by consumers
themselves: worn out, damaged or unwanted clothing.
The key challenge in handling the three types of waste
is to reduce their amounts and to minimize waste that is
now being incinerated or landlled. In Graph 3, the red
denotes the ows of textile waste that has to be eliminated
or minimized, as well as the necessary activities; the grey
represents stages that the author deems crucial for the
process to be successful.
In its most recent report, the Global Fashion Agenda and The
Boston Consulting Group predicts that if the current level of
solid waste generated by production processes and end-of-
use continues into the future, the fashion industry’s waste
will increase from 2015 to 2030 by about 60%, as a result of
additional 57 million tons of waste being generated annually.
Consequently, the total level of fashion waste will rise to 148
million tons by 2030, which amounts to 17.5 kg per capita
annually across the planet [13].
According to the Eurostat statistics, the top ten producers of
textile waste in the EU in 2014 (tons; all NACE activities plus
households) were Italy, Germany, the UK, Poland, Belgium,
France, Spain, Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Portugal
(Figure 4).
Most of the countries managed to reduce their textile waste
levels from 2004. The exception is Poland, Belgium and
Germany, where the volumes of textile waste increased
between 2004 and 2014 (Table 2).
The rankings look somewhat dierent when the generation of
textile waste is considered in per capita terms. In this case, the
unquestionable leader is Cyprus with 32 kg of textile waste per
Fall in clothing
prices, relatively to
the prices of other
consumer goods
Increase in demand
for clothing
rising consumer
growing number of
garments purchased
Fast fashion culture:
more clothes of
lower quality,
shorter lead times
for production,
more frequent lines
for production more
frequent lines and
Global population
and the middle class
throwaway attitude
life of clothing
treating lowest-
priced garments
as nearly
Increase in
demand and
production of
number of
low grade
textile waste
al impact
lack of landfill
The limits of the linear “take-make-dispose” economy
move towards the circular model
/ sharing
Product as a
Figure 2. Trends in the textile and clothing industry pushing the move towards circular economy
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 340
inhabitant in 2012, followed by the UK (19 kg) and Belgium
(16 kg). These numbers contrast sharply with the EU average
of 6 kg per capita (Figure 5).
The data in Table 3 below reveal that in the years 2004—2012
textile waste production signicantly increased in the UK (from
4 to 19 kg per capita), Germany (from 2 to 4 kg) and Austria
(from 4 to 5 kg). In the same period, some of the EU leaders
in textile production managed to substantially reduce textile
waste. For instance, in Romania, its level dropped from 12 kg
per capita in 2004 to 1 kg per capita in 2012, in Portugal from
45 kg to 6 kg, in Belgium from 59 kg to 16 kg, and in Italy from
14 kg to 7 kg (Table 3).
The problem that waste poses today lies not only in the number
of its streams, but also how it is treated. The typical end-of-life
options for textile and clothing products are the following[12,5]:
reuse (repair, resale)
recycling (high value recycling, up-cycling, down-cycling)
incineration (without energy recovery, with thermal energy
generation), and
landll disposal
Only 20% of clothing waste is collected globally for reuse or
recycling. The remaining 80% is landlled or incinerated,
which results in a great loss of energy and raw materials.[18,9]
Therefore, let us try to identify the main causes of this situation.
Figure 3. Closing the loop in the textile and clothing industry — a way to zero waste supply chain Source: created by the author based on [8,19,20]
439 19 2
343 7 57
281 2 35
261 1 35
181 26 6
175 0 00
110 3 21
95 15 6
90 297
75 493
72 638
25 699
24 84 7
17 21 8
16 322
15 50 5
11 48 4
8 504
8 320
8 112
8 083
7 491
5 743
3 148
2 932
2 024
1 560 339 302
Figure 4. Textile waste (all NACE activities plus households) in EU countries; tons, 2014 Source: created by the author based on Eurostat data
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 341
3.2.1. Product design and development
In the circular economy, product performance (determined
by its durability, recyclability and reparability) will be dened
as early as the design stage. Decisions being made then will
inuence all the subsequent phases of a garment’s life-cycle
(from the specication of raw materials and the selection of
dyes, solvents, nishing processes, garment construction,
accessories, and labelling methods to the disposal of the
garment by the consumer), thus determining the range of end-
of-life options [12,10,29]. They will also make garments last
longer and be less likely to end up in landlls at the end of life [12].
Table 2. Change in textile waste in EU countries from 2004 to 2014
Textile waste All NACE activities plus
European Union (28 countries) 4 430 000 2290000 -48%
Poland 79 402 261 135 181 733 229%
Belgium 106 766 181 266 74 500 70%
Germany 222 336 343 757 121 421 55%
Turkey 260 549 214 324 -46 225 -18%
Netherlands 115 935 95 156 -20 779 -18%
United Kingdom 378 233 281 235 -96 998 -26%
Spain 188 762 110 321 -78 441 -42%
Italy 753 187 439 192 -313 995 -42%
Austria 138 121 72 638 -65 483 -47%
France 489 600 175 000 -314 600 -64%
Czech Republic 310 438 90 297 -220 141 -71%
Romania 261 032 25 699 -235 333 -90%
Portugal 963 633 75 493 -888 140 -92%
Source: created by the author based on Eurostat data
7 7 7 6 6 6 54 4 3 3 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Figure 5. Textile waste (all NACE activities plus households) in EU countries in 2012, kg/per capita. Source: calculated by the author based on
Eurostat data
3.2. Determinants of the eectiveness and economic
viability of textile recycling
The practical and economic viability of textile and clothing
recycling depends on many factors, including the availability
of appropriate infrastructure, the type of textile product and
its physical condition, the degree of wear, ber composition,
nish, garment construction, logos and emblems, accessories,
the manner of labelling, and, last but not least, how the garment
has been disposed of [12]. The factors can be divided into
three groups (Figure 6) with respect to the phase in the textile
product life cycle (marked in grey in Figure 3).
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 342
The designers and engineers will face a real challenge of
combining optimal recycling options and sustainability with
product desirability, because designing sustainable, fully
recyclable products that appeal to no one, falls short of success.
In trying to achieve this, they will have to solve a sort of a
catch-22 problem; although many bers and ber blends
present in nished products cannot be eectively separated for
recycling unless complex processes are applied, they cannot
be given up because they give fabric qualities appreciated
by consumers, such as softness, breathability, ease of
care, comfort, appearance, drape, handle, color fastness,
functionality and so on.[12] A case in point is the blend of cotton
and polyester. It is inexpensive for clothing manufacturers and
oers consumers the desirable performance and care features
(breathability and softness of cotton is enhanced by polyester
properties such as color stability and resistance to abrasion
and repeated washings), but recycling it is a challenging task.
[13,6] This inevitably implies that the circular economy will need
new design philosophies and interdisciplinary teams capable of
coming up with circular, resource-ecient solutions acceptable
for customers.
Table 3. Change in textile waste levels in EU countries from 2004 to 2012, kg per capita
[kg per capita]
[kg per capita]
EU-28 8 6-25%
United Kingdom 4 19 375%
Germany 2 4 100%
Austria 4 5 25%
Cyprus 32 32 0%
France 7 7 0%
Spain 2 2 0%
Poland 2 2 0%
Italy 14 7 -50%
Sweden 2 1 -50%
Belgium 59 16 -73%
Norway 4 1 -75%
Portugal 45 6 -87%
Romania 12 1 -92%
Greece 1 0 -100%
Source: calculated by the author based on Eurostat data
Figure 6. Main factors likely to inuence the practical and economic viability of textile and clothing recycling in the future
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 343
3.2.2. Disposal practices and recycling technologies
Another crucial and challenging stage in the development of a
circular textile system is nding an answer to the question about
how textile waste should be collected and sorted. For the process
to be successful, recovery and reprocessing infrastructure is
necessary, as well as eective communication across the supply
chain.[4] As it seems, closing the loop in textile and clothing
industry is hindered by three main types of barriers (Tables 4):
• consumer disposal practices – behaviors and education
producer disposal practices and possibilities – infrastructure
and processes for waste collection and sorting
• recycling technologies – operable in practice
Consumers appear to know less and be less aware of the need
and ways of dealing with end-of-life garments and textiles than
they are in the case of glass, paper or plastics.
A lack of up-scaled eciency in collecting and sorting textile
and clothing waste is also a problem. Due to this, low-quality
materials and blends dominate in the recycling market
and puts a strain on the commercially viable recycling
technologies for low-grade textiles and blends.
As a result, only 15 to around 20% of all textiles (depending
on the region) go to recycling, while the rest of it is landfilled
or incinerated. The EU-27 rate for reused or recycled
clothing is only 18%, which in the US is even worse.[19]
They clearly contrast with the rates for other products (in
the case of packaging it is 98% in Germany and 79% in
The mainstream recycling technologies and structural
solutions that could eliminate barriers to the introduction of
a global closed loop in the textiles industry are still few. To
cope with this problem, the industry, research institutions,
academia and NGOs have intensied their eorts aimed
to develop eective solutions through research projects
and programs, and to introduce new business models
and technologies. Some examples of such initiatives are
presented in Table 5.
Table 4. Barriers to closing the loop in textile and clothing industry
Consumer behavior and education Disposal practices, collection and
sorting infrastructure and process Recycling technologies
- Poor consumer demand for recycled
textile products, which tend to be
perceived as lower quality
- Consumers’ unawareness that textiles
should be recycled and how they can
be disposed of in the most responsible
- Collectors focus on “re-wearable”
textiles, while neglecting streams
of waste that require more costly
recovery solutions
- Lack of mainstreamed, up-scaled
processes and know-how to collect
and sort textiles by ber type
- Low availability of infrastructure on
local and regional levels
- Lack of commercially viable recycling
technologies for low-grade textiles
- Lack of mainstreamed, up-scaled
processes and know-how to separate
ber types from the mixed blends and
composite structures
- Costly recovery process
- The recycling end-market dominated
by low quality materials and blends
- Costly logistics and low availability of
textile recycling plants on local and
regional levels
- Lack of traceability in the global waste chain
- Policy frameworks in which collectors, recyclers and waste managers operate
Source: created by the author based on [20,10].
Table 5. Examples of the activities facilitating the transformation towards circular economy model in textile and clothing industry
Area of action
Aims Actions Results
BIONIC® [21,3]
To use innovative technologies
to transform recycled plastics
into innovative raw materials
and high-performance textiles,
and to achieve new standards
in aesthetics and functionality
To supply the consumer and
industrial markets with fully
traceable, high-grade textiles
and polymers made with
coastal and marine plastic.
Production of POLYMER:
BIONIC® Polymer: a hybrid of
recovered Marine and Coastal
plastic available as Polyethylene
terephthalate (PET) and High-
density polyethylene (HDPE)
for injection and blow mould
applications with customizable
pellet color and physical properties
Production of FIBRES - oer a
range of three yarns, each with a
dierent structure and proportion of
recovered plastic, from 40% up to
100% of recycled content: (DPX®.,
HLX® ,FLX® )
Bionic Yarn estimate that in three
years they have pulled 7 million
plastic bottles from shorelines
around the world to produce yarn,
thus helping to protect marine
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 344
Area of action
Aims Actions Results
Tonlé [15]
design and
To use all pre-consumer textile
waste to make fashionable
Creation of zero-waste fashion
collections out of surplus fabric
from larger manufacturers, who
usually scrap about 11% of the
fabric through inecient cutting
Tonlé achieves zero-waste by
combining creative pattern-making
with a process of generating new
garments from the surplus fabrics.
Tonlé utilizes more than 97% of
the fabric it receives and turns
the excess into paper instead of
discarding it.
Workers are paid well above the
minimum wages and are oered
a comfortable and safe working
In 2014, Tonlé succeeded in
diverting 10 tons of textiles from
landlling. 90% of the fabric it uses
is pre-consumer textile waste and
the remaining 10% is composed of
the up-cycled components of local
garment waste. By using recycled
raw materials rather than virgin
Mud Jeans
International BV
based on a
“lease a jean”
To promote usage over
ownership and to facilitate the
transition to a circular economy
in the fashion industry by
leasing jeans and recycling or
upcycling materials.
After a year of leasing a pair of
jeans, customers may keep it,
switch it for a new model, or send
it back for reuse or recycling. Mud
Jeans sells the used clothing
as vintage items or recycles the
fabrics into new products. The
manufacturing process itself is
socially responsible and respects
workers’ rights.
The clothing manufacturing process
uses far less water and does not
need chemicals then conventional
G-Star and
Circle Economy
pilot project with
Wieland Textiles
and Recover [5]
Waste collection
& recycling
To re-introduce denim goods
returned to G-Star and to
create new denim fabrics that
can compete
with virgin cotton denim on
price, quality and aesthetics.
To try and prove the business
and environmental case for
high value (textile-to-textile)
recycling of denim.
G- Star selected one of their top
selling denim fabrics and set out to
incorporate recycled content in the
making of that fabric. The
intent was to extend the future
impact of this project beyond a
single capsule collection and make
recycled denim part of the sourcing
strategy in the long term
Recycled denim fabric has a price
premium of 12.5% compared with
virgin equivalents.
A maximum of 30% of recycled bers
can be used in the recycled
yarn to make sure that it retains the
needed strength for weaving and
A recycled denim fabric with as little
as 12% of recycled content has a
much lower environmental impact
than its virgin equivalent: water
consumption can be reduced by
9.8%, energy consumption by 4.2%
and CO2 emissions by 3.8%.
ReShare – a
division of a
Salvation Army:
Project partnered
with Circle
Economy and
Recover [6]
To recycle used workwear of
the Dutch military into
new textile products
to show the market that used
workwear can be transformed
into new,
high quality products,
while achieving signicant
environmental savings.
Development of a sustainable and
safe solution for approximately
600 tons of old military workwear
donated by the Dutch Ministry of
Used workwear of 50:50 cotton/
polyester average composition was
mixed with virgin PET (polyester)
ber and mechanically recycled
into new yarn to make blankets for
humanitarian aid.
Several tons of old Dutch navy and
army uniforms were transformed into
new yarns that were used to produce
humanitarian aid blankets. The Life
Cycle Assessment of the yarns
made with 80% recycled military
uniforms showed a reduction in water
consumption by 87%, decreased
energy use by 42%, and a reduction
in CO2 emissions by 33%, when
compared with a non-recycled yarn.
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 345
[2] Bell, N.C., Lee, P., Riley, K. Slater, S. Tackling problematic
textile waste streams, available from: http://www.resyntex.
eu/ [cited 01.08.2017].
[3] BIONIC, available from: [cited 25.07.2017].
[4] Boiten, V.J., Li-Chou Han, S., Tyler, D. Circular economy
stakeholder perspectives: Textile collection strategies to
support material circularity, available from: http://resyntex.
strategies.pdf [cited 30.07.2017].
[5] Circle case study g-star raw closed loop denim business
case & environmental impact analysis, available from: http://
Publishable-G-STAR-Casestudy-1.pdf [cited: 30.07.2017].
[6] Circle Textiles Closing the Loop for Workwear, available
[cited 06.06.2017].
[7] Claudio, L. (2007). Waste couture: Environmental impact of
the clothing industry. Environmental Health Perspectives,
115, A449-A454.
[8] Dahlbo, H., Aalto, K., Eskelinen, H., Salmenperä, H. (2017)
Increasing textile circulation—consequences and requirements.
Sustainable Production and Consumption, 9, 44-57.
[9] Danigelis, A. (2017). Retailers bank on environmentally-
friendly clothing for increased sales. In Environmental
Leader, Business Sector Media LLC USA.
[10] De Paoli, A.(2015). Towards the circular economy:
Identifying local and regional government policies for
developing a circular economy in the fashion and textiles
sector in Vancouver, Canada; Vancouver Economic
[11] Denim Business Case & Environmental Impact Analysis.
(2017). Available from:
Casestudy-1.pdf [cited 30.07.2017].
4. Conclusions
Recent years have made it apparent that the linear economy
model (take-make-waste) underlying the textile and clothing
sector is nearing its end. There are several intertwined trends
that have brought the sector to this point: fast fashion and
consumerism with its throw away attitude and shorter active life
of clothing, expanding global population and middle class, and
the falling prices of clothing. The trends have almost naturally
entailed an increase in the demand for relatively inexpensive
textile and clothing products and conventional bers, as well as
contributing to an increased amount of low grade textile waste,
a lack of landll capacity and higher disposal costs. At the same
time, new trends are emerging towards the circular economy:
digitalization, sustainability, an emphasis on transparency, as
well as the adoption of new business and consumption models
based on sharing economy.
With the rise of those new, very broad and potentially far-
reaching trends, the textile and clothing industry faces new
challenges, several of which have been addressed in this
article. A transition towards a circular economy should start
with waste prevention and the minimization of landlled
waste. This process has three phases that are crucial for the
circular economy model: product design and development,
waste collection and sorting and eective recycling. Each of
them comes with barriers and diculties, but also oers ample
[1] Agrawal, Y.; Barhanpurka, S., Joshi, A. Recycle textiles
waste, available from: http://www.
article/6798/recycle-textiles-waste [cited 08.08.2017].
Area of action
Aims Actions Results
a Dutch circular
fashion & textiles
agency [22]
Product design
To show that mixed post-
consumer textiles can be
recycled into new high-quality
products, thereby making the
case for closed loop textiles
No longer wearable, post-
consumer textile waste
(>70%) were used in an
ecologically friendly process (no
water, no additional chemicals, no
dying) to make yarn and textiles
with a minimal negative ecological
In the project 100% recycled yarns
for a new collection of knitted and
woven fashion and upholstery
products were produced
In the project, almost 7 tons of post-
consumer garments were processed
to produce 6 tons of new 100%
recycled yarns. Four dierent color
yarns were made with 70% recycled
post-consumer garments and 30%
The LCA analysis of one of the
recycled yarns showed a decrease
in energy use by 33%, a reduction in
water consumption by 62%, and
a decrease in greenhouse gas
emissions by 18% compared with a
virgin yarn of similar composition.
+ recycling
technologies [13]
The brand has partnered with
I:CO, a solutions provider for
clothing and footwear reuse and
recycling. Its facility in Germany
receives 25 to 30 truckloads a day
from collection bins at H&M
stores. The brand has similar
facilities in the US and India.
In 2016, H&M collected nearly
16,000 tons of garments, a 29%
increase from the previous year.
The collection program quickly
became the sustainability initiative
with the highest awareness amongst
Many stores reported positive
feedback, both in terms of handling
processes and customer reactions.
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 346
[22] Reblend: Transforming Post-consumer Textile Waste Into
High Quality Products Available from: [cited 15.07.2017].
[23] Remy, N., Speelman, E., Swartz, S., (2016). Style that’s
sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula; McKinsey &
[24] Resta, B., Gaiardelli, P., Pinto, R., Dotti, S. (2016).
Enhancing environmental management in the textile
sector: An organisational-life cycle assessment approach.
Journal of Cleaner Production, 135, 620-632.
[25] Teunissen, J. (2017). Fashion data: On the failing
fashion system and alternative solutions. The article is
an elaboration of research carried out for the exhibition
Fashion Data and draws upon ndings that were published
in A Fashion Odyssey (ArtEZ Press, 2013).
[26] The circular economy: Moving from theory to practice;
McKinsey Center for Business and Environment: 2016.
[27] Walter, L., (2016). Towards a 4th Industrial Revolution of
Textiles and Clothing. A Strategic Innovation and Research
Agenda for the European Textile and Clothing Industry
October, Textile ETP Brussel.
[28] The global ber market in 2016. Available from: http://www.ber-market.
html [cited: 30.07.2017].
[29] Towards the circular economy: Accelerating the scale-
up across global supply chains World Economic Forum:
Geneva, Switzerland, 2014.
[30] Yang Qin, M. (2014). Global bres overview. Tecon
OrbiChem: Synthetic Fibres Raw Materials Committee
Meeting at APIC 2014.
[31] EURATEX Key Figures 2017 - The EU-28 Textile and
Clothing Industry in the year 2017,
gures_2017LR.pdf [cited 15.07
[12] Durham, E., Hewitt, A., Bell, R., Russell, S. (2015).
Technical Design for Recycling of Clothing (Ed.) Blackburn,
R. In Sustainable apparel, Woodhead Publishing: pp 187-
[13] Eder-Hansen, J., Chalmer, C., Tärneberg, S., Tochtermann,
T., Seara, J., Boger, S., Theelen, G., Schwarz, S.,
Kristensen, L., Jäger, K. (2017). Pulse the fashion industry;
Global Fashion Agenda & The Boston Consulting
[14] Engaging Customers In Store to Enhance Durability.
Available from:les/wrap/
John-Lewis-durability-trial-cstudy.pdf. [cited 24.07.2017].
[15] Fashion from Pre-Consumer Waste. Available from: http://
from-pre-consumer waste. [cited 25.07.2017];
[16] Fast fashion. Staying on-trend with a new style of supply
chain; OLIVER WYMAN: 2015. Available from: http://www.
[17] Koszewska, M. (2011), The ecological and ethical
consumption development prospects in Poland compared
with the Western European countries. Comparative
Economic Research, 14, 101-123.
[18] Lewis, T. Apparel disposal and reuse. In Sustainable
apparel - production, processing and recycling, Blackburn,
R., Ed. Elsevier: 2015.
[19] Payne, A. Open- and closed-loop recycling of textile and
apparel products (Ed.) Muthu, S.S. In Handbook of life
cycle assessment (LCA) of textiles and clothing, Woodhead
Publishing: 2015; pp 103-123.
[20] Prieto-Sandoval, V., Jaca, C., Ormazabal, M. (2018),
Towards a consensus on the circular economy. Journal of
Cleaner Production, 179, 605-615.
[21] Recycled Plastic Bottles Reinvent Sustainable
Fashion. (2017). Available from: http://www.
bottles-reinvent-sustainable-fashion [cited 15.07.2017].
AUTEX Research Journal, Vol. 18, No 4, December 2018, DOI: 10.1515/aut-2018-0023 © AUTEX 347
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... In 2020, the global clothing market reached 1,5 trillion euros and it is anticipated to increase to 2,25 trillion by 2025 (Ihzaturrahma & Kusumawati, 2021). However, textile production requires a great quantity of resources like water, fossil fuels, chemicals and raw materials that result in a great amount of waste, liquid and solid toxic effluents, and greenhouse gases (Koszewska, 2018;Yacout & Hassouna, 2016). Moreover, synthetic fibres represent 64% of the global market of fibres, increasing this impact on the environment, due to their origin in fossil fuels (Textile Exchange, 2022). ...
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Despite the fact that textile waste is almost entirely recyclable, approximately 75% of it ends up in landfills worldwide. This has serious environmental and economic consequences. This review focuses on textile waste statistics, its contribution to pollution and recycling, as well as the benefits, barriers, types, and technologies of textile waste recycling. Textile production and textile waste generation have increased alarmingly as a result of fast fashion, which emphasizes low-cost production, frequent consumption, and short-term use of garments. This industry is distinguished by scarcity of resources, excessive consumption, and the generation of large amounts of waste. The frequency of consumer purchases is increasing, while the life span of clothing is drastically decreasing. Recycling does not occur as expected for a variety of reasons, so the environmental impact and economic losses from this waste grow over time. The textile industry currently contributes about 8% of the global carbon budget and 20% of industrial water pollution. Every year, $500 billion is lost to the system due to unused clothing and a lack of recycling. A paradigm shift is urgently required to implement an effective textile waste recycling system.
The idea of sustainability through spreading Awareness in reduce, reuse, and recycle are important techniques for waste management and become a vital factor for improving the economic and environmental condition of textile industries. Because of a remarkable expansion in population, generally improvement of expectation for everyday comforts and the worldwide manufacturing of various textile Textiles items are being expanded in the previous few decades, which prompts a significant degree of utilization and waste generation. The major wastes such as wastewater and fiber waste disposed by in an unplanned manner, which causes many environmental problems, since the textile and clothing industry is one of the most polluting industry. Consequently, the proper management practices of waste generation is becoming important worldwide. This study focuses on identifying the current production, waste generation, source of waste and its characteristics, utilization and environmental concerns. This paper also addresses the possible framework for the textile waste management practices to value added products in textile and apparel industry and future needs for further development are also discussed.
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On a Saturday afternoon, a group of teenage girls leaf through glossy fashion magazines at a New Jersey outlet mall. Shopping bags brimming with new purchases lay at their feet as they talk excitedly about what’s in style to wear this summer. Far away in Tanzania, a young man proudly wears a T-shirt imprinted with the logo of an American basketball team while shopping at the local mitumba market for pants that will fit his slender figure. Although seemingly disparate, these two scenes are connected through the surprising life cycle of clothing. How does a T-shirt originally sold in a U.S. shopping mall to promote an American sports team end up being worn by an African teen? Globalization, consumerism, and recycling all converge to connect these scenes. Globalization has made it possible to produce clothing at increasingly lower prices, prices so low that many consumers consider this clothing to be disposable. Some call it “fast fashion,” the clothing equivalent of fast food. Fast fashion provides the marketplace with affordable apparel aimed mostly at young women. Fueling the demand are fashion magazines that help create the desire for new “must-haves” for each season. “Girls especially are insatiable when it comes to fashion. They have to have the latest thing, always. And since it is cheap, you buy more of it. Our closets are full,” says Mayra Diaz, mother of a 10-year-old girl and a buyer in the fashion district of New York City. Disposable couture appears in shopping mall after shopping mall in America and Europe at prices that make the purchase tempting and the disposal painless. Yet fast fashion leaves a pollution footprint, with each step of the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards. For example, polyester, the most widely used manufactured fiber, is made from petroleum. With the rise in production in the fashion industry, demand for man-made fibers, especially polyester, has nearly doubled in the last 15 years, according to figures from the Technical Textile Markets. The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants. The EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, considers many textile manufacturing facilities to be hazardous waste generators. Issues of environmental health and safety do not apply only to the production of man-made fabrics. Cotton, one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, also has a significant environmental footprint. This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA. The U.S. cotton crop benefits from subsidies that keep prices low and production high. The high production of cotton at subsidized low prices is one of the first spokes in the wheel that drives the globalization of fashion.
The growing importance of the concept of the circular economy as a way to attain sustainable development has encouraged scholars to propose different ways to understand it. Given the large number of studies done on the circular economy, their differing approaches and their multiple applications, this paper attempts to propose a consensus view of the basic notions of the circular economy framework and highlight its relationship with eco-innovation. To that end, this study carried out a systematic literature review that resulted in four main outputs: a knowledge map of the circular economy, an analysis of the main notions of the concept, principles, and determinants of a circular economy. Finally, this study brings to light some remarkable examples of eco-innovations developed for implementation in the circular economy.
The fate of clothing at the end of its life cycle has become increasingly burdensome and complicated with the growth of mass production and multinational retail firms enabling the rapid delivery of fashionable items on a global scale to a trend-driven industry. The imbalance of consumption and disposal often pushes the overconsumption of developed nations into the markets of lesser-developed countries. To understand the context of apparel reuse and disposal, an examination of the global supply chain for apparel production and consumption is necessary because apparel is discarded at different points along this chain. Charitable organizations such as Oxfam, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army may be the first point of collection for unwanted clothing, but other for-profit organizations have entered the market for clothing collection in an effort to meet the market demands of a global trade in used clothing. Once the used garments enter a new market with new consumers it cannot be assumed that this is a sustainable solution to end-of-life management. Consideration of the impact of the used garment once it passes on to a new market should be factored into part of its life cycle. Demand for used clothing is slowing in some developing nations due to low-cost imports of new clothing or import restrictions. Therefore, developed nations will have to generate more alternatives for reuse in their own countries in order to prevent direct disposal of used clothing into waste streams.
Clothing is rarely designed to aid recycling at the end of life. Design can influence both the active life of clothing and suitability for reuse or recycling when discarded by its user. This chapter discusses some important aspects of design for recycling, such as durability, homogeneity of composition, compatibility with industrial recycling processes, yarn and fabric structure, coatings and printed surfaces, adhesives and lamination, joint selection, disassembly time, and labeling. Small design modifications in clothing to facilitate automated disassembly are also considered for the removal of labels, logos, buttons, and zippers without damaging the surrounding fabric.
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.
An increasing number of textile firms are adopting sustainability strategies for achieving long-term competitive advantage. In this paper, a new decision-making process for the textile sector, exploiting the Organisational Life Cycle Assessment methodology, is proposed. It provides a management system able to support companies in monitoring and evaluating environmental performances with a dynamic perspective and identify which activity and/or mechanical plant needs to be improved or changed in order to reduce the environmental impact, enabling cost savings, and at the same time, developing the business case for sustainability. In particular, for each Organisational Life Cycle Assessment phase, an operational tool was established. The tools were developed both by reviewing specific literature and by conducting in-depth semi-structured interviews in six textile companies. Across firms, informants included the Managing Director, the Plant Manager, shop floor supervisors and workers, and representatives from Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, Manufacturing, Quality, and Accounting. Additionally, direct observation (e.g., plant tours) was also used as data collection method. A case study of a spinning company reveals the potential benefits of this decision-making process.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to evaluate the environmental impacts of textile products, from raw material extraction, through fibre processing, textile manufacture, distribution and use, to disposal or recycling. LCA is an important tool for the research and development process, product and process design, and labelling of textiles and clothing. Handbook of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Textiles and Clothing systematically covers the LCA process with comprehensive examples and case studies. Part one of the book covers key indicators and processes in LCA, from carbon and ecological footprints to disposal, re-use and recycling. Part two then discusses a broad range of LCA applications in the textiles and clothing industry.
Textile waste is a significant contributor to landfill, yet the majority of textiles can be recycled, allowing for the energy and fibre to be reclaimed. This chapter examines the open-loop and closed-loop recycling of textile products with particular reference to the fashion and apparel context. It describes the fibres used within apparel, the current mechanical and chemical methods for textile recycling, LCA findings for each method and applications within apparel for each. Barriers for more effective recycling include ease of integration into existing textile and apparel design methods as well as coordinated collection of post-consumer waste. The chapter concludes with a discussion of innovations that point to future trends in both open-loop and closed-loop recycling within the apparel industry.
Style that's sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula
  • N Remy
  • E Speelman
  • S Swartz
Remy, N., Speelman, E., Swartz, S., (2016). Style that's sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula; McKinsey & Company.