The Business of Textile Waste
Written by Charline Ducas, Textile Exchange Sustainable Materials Specialist
According to the Eco-Index, waste encompasses excess non-reusable, non-recyclable raw materials; by-products in processing; excessive, non-reusable, non-recyclable packaging; harmful and hazardous substances used in a variety of processes from extraction and farming. Waste is prevalent throughout the lifecycle of a product.
Sources of Textile Waste
Textile Waste is generated at both pre-consumer as well as post consumers stages.
Pre-consumer waste comes from any excess material created during the steps of material and product manufacturing, e.g. selvage from weaving, fabric from factory cutting rooms, or excess production and unsold items that might normally be disposed of as waste.
Post-consumer waste comes from household resources, for example used apparel or home textile products.
Why is it a concern?
Each year, millions of tonnes of textile waste are discarded, recycled in very low quality products, sent to landfill or incinerated. There are concerning environmental impacts associated with these practices which include:
Discarding of valuable textiles raw materials with potential for reuse at a time of increasing scarcity of virgin resources
Limited landfill space, in a world with increasing population and consumption patterns
Release of greenhouse gases and toxics, in landfills or incineration
Increased governments focus on commercial waste and producer responsibility to meet the increased recycling/reuse/prevention targets
These issues are of vital concern to companies in the textile sector, since as the creators of this waste, they are expected to also become creators of the solution. Not only chances of bans on recyclable textiles being disposed ofare becoming increasingly likely, but the costs of virgin resources and securing long term business are also rising, rapidly bringing waste strategies high on many companies agendas.
It is therefore important that brands, retailers, and manufacturers develop sound strategies for reducing waste creation but as well for developing solutions for closing the loop.xtiles being disposed of are becoming increasingly likely, but the costs of virgin resources and securing long term business are also rising, rapidly bringing waste strategies high on many companies agendas.
Opportunities resulting from waste minimisation strategies
Better resource management
Improved corporate responsibility
New business opportunities
Practices to promote: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The waste hierarchy refers to the 3 (or 5) Rs of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, (Recover and Reject) which classify waste management strategies according to their desirability. The Rs are meant to be a hierarchy, in order of importance. This hierarchy has taken many forms over the past decade, but the basic concept has remained the cornerstone of most waste minimisation strategies.
The aim of the waste hierarchy is to extract the maximum practical benefits from products and to generate the minimum amount of waste, and can be considered in the same way by any actor, from individuals to companies and public sector institutions.
Want to know more?
Look out for our FastFacts on Textile and Product Waste which will be released next week.
Want to share what your company is already doing in this area? We welcome your comments on this blog!