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Textile Recycling – What can be done with old clothing and other textiles?

Posted on January 30, 2018 By Nella Kangas

Hand in hand with other sustainable actions being taken to protect our globe, the importance of recycling old clothing and textiles is increasingly being recognized. Consumers, non-profit organizations and even fast-fashion companies are taking steps towards a more environmentally friendly textile industry, enabling recovery for reuse or material recovery.


Re-use and recycling of old textiles is important; they take a long time to decompose

Clothes and textiles that are in good condition can be donated or sold for re-use. Items that are unsuitable to be passed on to someone else can be recycled and made into new products, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and mattress fillings.

However, when old textiles hit the landfills, they take a long time to decompose. Natural fibers can take hundreds of years to decompose, and in the process they may release methane and CO2 gas into the atmosphere. Synthetic materials are not designed to decompose at all. And when taking into consideration the speed at which the textile industry is growing, it is important to avoid the dumping of textiles and develop alternatives for their re-use.

Cutting and shredding of textiles prepares them for recycling

The typical textile waste recycling technologies are mechanical, chemical, and thermal recycling. All these methods usually require the cutting and shredding of waste textiles before processing. In the mechanical recycling process, the textile is cut and shredded and further processed to retrieve fibers and filaments for use in new fabrics and materials. In the thermal processing of cotton waste, for instance, the cotton waste is cut and shredded and then processed into biogas and ethanol.

Recycled materials offer multiple options for reuse, limited only by imagination. To avoid the usage of virgin fibers, materials can be turned into new clothing, accessories, or even car seat fillings. Companies can use recycled textiles in industrial purposes. A Finnish company, Dafecor, manufactures environmental products by recycling old textiles and turning them into oil-absorbing products that absorb up to 18 times their own weight of oil. Dafecor also manufactures industrial towels and cloths, and floor underlay materials. The mechanical carding and other steps of the process used by Dafecor are environmentally friendly and prevent textiles ending up in landfills.

Textile recycling offers multiple environmental benefits

Textile recycling reduces landfill space requirements by preventing non-decomposable synthetic textiles and long-lived natural fibers from ending up in a landfill site. By recycling, the usage of virgin fibers can be avoided, leading to reduced consumption of the water and energy that is needed to grow cotton, for example.

TANA Shark waste shredder can be used in cutting and shredding of waste textiles before processing

During 2018, we at TANA will be publishing more information, blogs and videos about cutting and shredding waste textiles. To keep yourself updated check below and subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.

Poistotekstiileistä liiketoimintaa –seminar, Kotka 31.1.2017

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See also:
End-of-life Tires as an Alternative Fuel (TDF) in Cement Kilns: Now Easier than Ever!
Transformation of the waste business influences all business owners
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