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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Unlocking a $1.5 billion fiber-to-fiber recycling potential

Fashion for Good has released the “Sorting for Circularity USA” report, that provides US$1.5 billion opportunity for fiber-to-fiber recycling by redirecting non-rewearable textiles from landfills and incinerators to recycling streams.

The report marks a milestone in the understanding of fiber-to-fiber recycling within the US textile industry. This report is the first of its kind in the USA and offers key insights into consumer disposal habits, textile waste composition and potential for fiber-to-fiber recycling.

The US, remaining a global leader in textile consumption and waste generation, offers ample secondary raw materials for post-consumer textile feedstock. However, a concerning 85 percent of textile waste still finds its way into landfills or incinerators, leaving only 15 percent to be recuperated. With upcoming regulations in both the USA and the European Union to endorse fiber-to-fiber recycling, there is escalating demand for infrastructure related to post-consumer textile collection, sorting, and recycling.

The “Sorting for Circularity USA” project addresses the critical challenge of transforming textile waste into a valuable resource. The project unearths the connection between consumer behavior, waste generation, and currently available recycling technologies, with the aim of creating a system to utilize all textiles effectively and minimize waste.

The project fulfilled existing data voids through conducting a wide-ranging US consumer survey and analyzing waste composition. The survey indicated that 60 percent of respondents divert textiles while 4 percent discard them. The waste analysis revealed that over 56 percent of post-consumer textiles are feasible for fiber-to-fiber recycling, with cotton and polyester being the dominant fiber types. This insight underscores the potential for these textiles to serve as feedstock for mechanical and chemical recycling processes.

The report underscores strategies to enhance the US textile recycling industry, emphasizing financial value through efficiency improvements, increased commodity valuation and policy mechanisms like extended producer responsibility schemes. Further, it underscores the need for a cross-sector collaboration involving brands, government, retailers, consumers, collectors, sorters, recyclers, and financial institutions to promote circularity.

The “Sorting for Circularity USA” Project, initiated in January 2023 by Fashion for Good, Amsterdam/Netherlands, and RRS, is a pioneering initiative designed to offer indispensable insights for strategic decision-making to promote circularity in the fashion value chain. The project brings together Fashion for Good brand partners adidas, Inditex, Target, Levi Strauss & Co., external partners H&M Group, lululemon, Eastman, Nordstrom, and the New York State Center for Sustainable Materials Management (NYS CSMM), and key project implementation partners including the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART) Association, Goodwill Industries International, Helpsy, Goodwill of Colorado, Goodwill of the Finger Lakes, Goodwill of the San Francisco Bay, Goodwill Suncoast, and United Southern Waste.

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