Worldwide Textile Waste & Recycling

Waste in any industry is a problem but according to Eileen Fischer, the fashion industry is the second largest polluter after the oil industry and while that seems a little exaggerated, it’s most likely true. Albeit hard to prove. (Here)

Fashion is a complicated business involving long and varied supply chains of production, raw material, textile manufacture, clothing construction, shipping, retail, use and ultimately disposal of the garment. While Fisher’s assessment that fashion is the second largest polluter is likely impossible to know, what is certain is that the fashion carbon footprint is tremendous. Determining that footprint is an overwhelming challenge due to the immense variety from one garment to the next. A general assessment must take into account not only obvious pollutants—the pesticides used in cotton farming, the toxic dyes used in manufacturing and the great amount of waste discarded clothing creates—but also the extravagant amount of natural resources used in extraction, farming, harvesting, processing, manufacturing and shipping. (Here)


Instead of throwing your textiles away, find a way to recycle them. Turn old shirts into blankets, curtains, kitchen rags or even dog toys before opting to throw them away. Patagonia offers a recycle program or even a worn wear, a traveling repair team that helps you repair your old pieces back to new for extended wear reducing the creation of new products. And if you simply can’t do anything with your old clothes be sure to donate them to a local thrift store or turn them into a recycling program like the one H&M has.

You can do anything in a Dress!
You can do anything in a Dress!

Some more facts:


  • Using recycled co on saves 20,000 liters of water per kilogram of cotton, a water-intensive crop.
  • The U.S. EPA es mates that only 15% of all textiles are recycled.
  • If everyone in the UK bought one reclaimed woolen garment each year, it would save an average of 1,686 million liters of water and 480 tons of chemical dyestuffs.
  • In 2009, 700,000 tons per year (11 kilograms per inhabitant per year) of new clothing, textile products, household linen, and pairs of shoes were put on the French market. The selective collection rate is 15% (106,000 tons per year or 1.7 kilograms/inhabitant per year). About 70% of the end of life textiles and shoes collected are sorted out (11% of the tonnage put on the market).
  • Up to 95% of the textiles that are landfilled each year could be recycled.
  • The European textile recycling sector employs about 100,000 workers.


  • 10-20% of all textiles in the fashion industry are estimated to be wasted.
  • About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. This waste rate has been tolerated industry-wide for decades.
  • The U.S. EPA estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all land ll space.
  • Whilst the exact volume of textile waste generated in China is not known, with es mates that China will soon make 50% of the world’s clothing – the indications for textile waste there are mind-blowing. Daily in Hong Kong, there are 253 tons of textiles sent to landfill.

(From Here)

Elegantees Dolman

So WHY buy ethical? Ethical means 2) involving or expressing moral approval or disapproval 3) conforming to accepted standards of conduct (from Here). The idea of expressing morality through what we wear and upholding businesses to strict rules of ethical standards for their workers, and for the environment are why buying ethical are important. It’s also important to buy less.

Some argue, to which I would agree, the ethical approach to fashion is:

first to buy second hand preferably ethical brand name but otherwise second hand is number one

second would be to buy new from an ethical brand

lastly would be to buy new from a non-ethically upheld business

2 thoughts on “Worldwide Textile Waste & Recycling

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