We see around us a mass of textiles such as t-shirts, socks, shirts, and so on left as scrap whether in our nearby dumping ground or the riverside near our city. These are seemed worthless to the consumers and thrown into the waste bin as waste but very few people know that these wastes can turn into valuable products after going through some processes. Yes, we talking about textile waste recycling processes.
Businesses can make a profit by recycling these textile wastes as well as be a helping hand to save our environment. In addition, they can be benefited from the growing concern over environmental pollution among the consumers that inspire them to buy environment-friendly recycled products.
The study finds that only 12% of the clothes sold globally each year are recycled where 90% of used textiles are recyclable. Even, it is interesting that the global textile recycling market grew at a CAGR of 19% during 2014-2019. And the global textile recycling market reached a value of around US$ 5 Billion in 2020!
Textile wastes can be classified into two categories, one is Pre-consumer waste another one is Post-consumer waste.
Pre-consumer or post-industrial waste consists of textile waste produced at textile factories during the production of textile materials. Typically, these byproducts are produced by the textile, garment, cotton, and fiber manufacturing plants.
Post-consumer waste consists of discarded clothes or household articles made from manufactured textile materials as they become worn out or damaged after a certain period of use.
To recycle textile wastes basically, two types of methods are used, one is Mechanical processing and another one is Chemical processing.
Mechanical processing is the most common method of recycling textiles. It is the process of recycling the textile fabric back into fibers without the use of any chemicals. This process includes the shredding and carding process to extract the fibers from the fabric. This fiber can then be spun to make yarn for either woven or knitted fabric. Mechanical recycling is best for the mono-fiber fabrics of cotton and is rarely used for viscose due to the fiber structure and higher fiber yield.
Chemical processing is much superior to mechanical recycling for the use of chemicals, enzymes, controlled environment, etc. which helps to overcome the limitation in processing various forms of fabrics.
This textile recycling method consists of series of chemical processes to depolymerize/dissolve the fibers of the fabric into monomer/solvent from weather to make newer fibers compound or to extract one compound from a mix.
It provides an output of almost the same quality as the virgin fibers, with no loss in physical properties through the recycling process. A wide range of fabrics such as woven, knits, non-woven can be processed in this method to make a wide range of products like jackets, auto-parts, home decors, etc.
Different types of textile waste recycling technologies are used to recycle a diverse range of waste such as,
- Cotton Recycling
- Wool Recycling
- Polyester & Polyester Fiber Recycling
- Nylon & Nylon Fiber Recycling, etc.
to produce a wide range of products such as,
- Home Furnishings
- Non-woven, etc.
A textile waste recycling business include processes such as
Collecting waste: The business ensures the continuous sourcing of textile wastes for processing. For this, it has a plan on how and from where to collect textile waste. Sources of textile waste maybe waste producing industries, dumping ground, dropbox, collectors buy used clothes from users and so on.
Processing waste: Machinery for a particular textile recycling process is installed depending on the waste type and desired output of the recycling process. Various machinery are available in the market which are used for different purposes of recycling based on whether mechanical or chemical method.
Manufacturing product: Based on the buyers’ requirements or market demand the business design and manufacture products such as apparel, home furnishings, non-woven, etc. from the raw materials produced after processing textile waste.
Selling: The business sells both products manufactured or the direct outputs of the recycling processes to be used as a raw material in industries such as cotton fibers, PET chips.
Some successful textile waste recycling startups: