Textile recycling innovation challenges clothing industry

Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Textile recycling innovation challenges clothing industry

Tonnes of old clothes end up in landfill. Manufacturers and fashion houses need to think harder about recycling

With reprocessing many textile fibres a challenge, dumping old clothes is often taken as the easy option.

Thanks mostly to retailers such as H&M, C&A, and Inditex (the owner of Zara), fashion has become far more affordable to millions of consumers. Once fiercely protective of their brands, high-end designers Roberto Cavalli, Matthew Williamson, Sonia Rykiel, and others have collaborated with H&M, bringing fashion-forward styles to the masses.

Cheap fashion, however, has a cost. The World Wildlife Fund has estimated that it takes 8,500 litres (2,245 gallons) to raise 1kg (2.2 pounds) of cotton lint – enough to make one pair of blue jeans. The use of pesticides and fertilizers, in addition to water, makes the global textile industry one of the most polluting and waste-generating sectors in the world. Plenty of companies boast about apparel made from PET bottles, but when that item of apparel is no longer wanted, its disposal once again becomes a nagging issue.



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