Textile sorting problems threaten market awareness with sustainability

textile-soringFollowing an increase in the number of brands integrating recycled materials into their items, sorted post-consumer textiles tend to struggle to find appropriate end markets that maintain their full value. The problem is to accelerate consumption and disposal practices which cause textiles to enter the market quickly to reach their end of use. Main market readiness challenges and the adoption of such materials include difficulties in separating fiber blends, accessible textile-to-textile recycling technologies, potential (and incentives) for further advancement of these technologies and consumer demand for recycled-content materials. Although the recycling industry has boomed, only one third of recyclers can handle more than one composition of the materials.

Some 60 per cent of recyclers use mechanical technologies, which require color sorting and the physical removal of trims and hardware, resulting in low financial viability and poor price parity with virgin materials. As such, recycled content from post-consumer sources remains low. Opportunities to scale the use of recycled textiles remain manifold as evidenced in the growth of textile-to-textile recyclers and recycling technologies.

Much of the chemical recycling is only at the pilot stage. Lack of traceability on most textiles risks reintroducing textiles into the system that could jeopardize public health because of chemical contamination.