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Opportunity to accelerate textile recycling

Fashion for Good and The Circle Economy accomplished the ‘Sorting for Circularity Europe’ Project which marks a vital landmark with the launch of an installation charting the processes and progress of the project at the Fashion for Good Museum in Amsterdam.

In early 2021, Fashion for Good and The Circle Economy founded Sorting for Circularity Europe to bridge the knowledge gap in the textile industry’s used material and estimate the number of potential feedstocks for mechanical and chemical recycling. Foremost textile waste and sorting plants from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom took part in the research.

Fashion for Good accelerate textile recycling
Figure: Fashion for Good and The Circle Economy founded Sorting for Circularity Europe to bridge the knowledge gap in the textile industry’s used material. Courtesy: Fashion for Good

The EU-funded Sorting for Circularity Europe project concludes in collaboration with Circle Economy, published report detailed the findings of the 16-month analysis. The analysis indicates that 74%, a total of 494,000 tons, of low-value, post-consumer textiles is readily available for fiber-to-fiber recycling in six European countries. This represents the potential to make a further €74 million per year in value by reinstating sorted and recycled textiles back into the value chain. This gives a “huge opportunity” for circularity, according to Fashion for Good.

Leading retailers like adidas, Bestseller, Inditex, Zalando or H&M have been crucial partners in the project including many others such as Levi Strauss & Co., Otto Group and PVH Corp partook as part of the wider working group of this project carried out in the six European countries, which makes this report the most comprehensive in the composition of textile waste in Europe to date.

Katrin Ley, General Director of Fashion for Good said, “Lays the foundations of knowledge that will allow the key players to get started”, because both “to make informed investment decisions, as well as to assess the business case for monetization through recycling, a deeper understanding of the characteristics of the current European landscape of post-consumer textiles is needed.”

At present, only 2% of post-consumer textiles go to fiber-to-fiber recycling today. While, present data suggests up to a 25% of European post-consumer textiles could become textile-to-textile recycling feedstocks in the future.

Demand for circularity is increasing

In the coming years, the volume of textile waste is likely to increase as the consumption and disposal, and incoming legislation, as well as the Waste Framework Directive, making it more and more urgent to find ways to the same.

To care this maintenance and development of sorting capacity, increased investment and policy changes play a critical role since Fashion for Good argues that there is a strong business case for sorting these textiles, in order to maintain and increase sorting capacity in Europe.

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