Textile Recycling

Textile Recycling: How It Works and Why It Matters

The textile industry is a big business, with increasing demand for clothing and other textiles. But what happens to all those clothes when we no longer want or need them? Many individuals and hospitality corporations just throw them into the garbage.

“In America alone, an estimated 11.3 million tons of textile waste – equivalent to 85% of all textiles – end up in landfills yearly. That’s equivalent to approximately 81.5 pounds (37 kilograms) per person per year and around 2,150 pieces per second countrywide,” states earth.org. The World Economic Forum further brings a gloomy light to this data, “Fashion production makes up 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions.”

According to online sources, “An estimated 100 billion garments are produced annually worldwide.” This source further states that about 17 million tons of textile municipal solid waste were generated in 2018, which has risen substantially since then. In 2018, “the recycling rate for textiles derived from clothing and footwear was 13.0%, while the recovery for sheets and pillowcases was 15.8% for the same year.” This staggeringly low recycling number shows the pressing need to recycle textiles.

There’s a better way than throwing away textiles: textile recycling. But what is textile recycling? In this blog, we have a deeper look into textile recycling and, with this, hope to inspire companies, hotels, individuals, and hospitality corporations to recycle their textiles and help save the planet.

So What Is Textile Recycling Exactly?

Before delving into textile recycling processes, let’s explain what type of textiles can be recycled. Almost every kind of textile can be recycled because different recycling centers are equipped to handle specific materials.

Textile recycling first involves collecting unwanted garments. “Textile waste is split into pre-consumer and post-consumer waste and is sorted into five different categories derived from a pyramid model,” states online sources.

Two types of textile recycling exist, namely, mechanical and chemical recycling. In a nutshell, textiles are broken down during mechanical recycling, and their fibers are preserved. These fibers are spun into new textiles to be reused. To determine which fibers can be used, sorting must occur. After sorting, textiles are shredded, properly washed, and separated into smaller threads. The individual fibers are aligned together and spun together to form yarn. Yarn is then spun to form textiles.

If not recycled mechanically, because textile reuse is not feasible, they are recycled through a chemical process.

Chemical recycling is used on synthetic fibers, which are effectively broken down to create fibers, yarn, and textiles. They’re broken down to the molecular level by using chemicals. These chemicals remove contaminants from the starting material and unwanted fibers. Then the material is polymerized and used to produce textile products.

Depending on the type of recycling, as our experts say in our FAQs, recycled fabrics can be broken down and turned into the padding, cleaning supplies, paper products, industrial blankets, and more.

Why Does Textile Recycling Matter?

Textiles are made up of fibers, yarns (made up of fibers), and fabrics (made up of yarns). When thrown away, they end up in landfills or incinerators, decomposing for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Textile recycling is different because it involves a process called “downcycling,” which means taking a material that has already been used once and turning it into something else with less value than what it started out being.

Textile recycling matters because it helps prevent waste from going into landfills and helps keep our oceans clean by cutting down on plastic pollution in the ocean. But it also helps keep jobs in the U.S. and provides consumers with affordable products made from recycled materials.

It also matters because it decreases landfill space requirements, avoids the use of virgin fibers, reduces energy and water consumption, reduces greenhouse gasses and pollution, and, lastly, lessens the demand for dyes.

If It Matters to You, the Do Your Own Textile Recycling in Your Way

When textiles or clothing are at the end of their life, they don’t have to go to a landfill. While some cities may offer textile recycling, there are usually limitations on items, and pickup can take weeks. Be sure to check with your city about this, or make your life easier by using a sustainable waste provider like us at CheckSammy, and we’ll handle all your textile recycling.

You can donate your unwanted clothes to family or friends or have our team donate them.

Fibre2Fashion suggests some unique ways to recycle your clothes and textiles in your own home:

  • Reuse old clothing and make cushions, handbags, and quilts
  • Damaged clothing can be easily transformed into rags and dusters
  • Bright-colored fabrics can be used for borders in a lampshade or other decorative pieces
  • Head and wristbands can be made with fabrics with colors
  • Old garments can be transformed into works of art like sewing patches, buttons, and beads into old garments, ironing graphics
  • Children can make use of old textiles for craft projects
  • Old textiles and clothes can be transformed into pet clothing and beds
  • Old textiles and clothes can be used for school projects

Recycle Your Textiles With Us, Because It Does Matter

Whether you’re a large clothing manufacturer with overstock apparel or a hospitality corporation with too many bedsheets, we have you covered. Are you passionate enough to do your part by managing your textile waste responsibly? We hope you are. Our CheckSammy Drop program provides a single source for brands who want to collect and divert materials from landfills. We help our commercial clients recycle or donate clothing, tablecloths, bedsheets, apparel, and all other textiles, so they can keep pace with unfolding regulatory challenges. Together, we can drastically reduce the volume of textiles sent to landfills. Start recycling your materials here.


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