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With the significant development of the global textile and apparel industry, textile waste continues to rise, and is becoming one of the biggest challenges for environmental and economic sustainability around the world. Fortunately, however, the entire industry is putting more emphasis and taking more action to tackle this challenge. Increasing numbers of textile and apparel manufacturers and textile waste producers have already been shifting their focus from textile waste management and traditional end of pipe solutions, to establishing a more systematic textile supply chain with textile waste prevention and innovative recycling methods.
According to the estimation from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 15 million tonnes of textile waste is produced every year in the United States, and the amount of textile waste has doubled over the last 20 years. The average American discards around 80 pounds of used clothing. Nationally, it costs cities $45 per tonne to dispose of used clothing. Synthetic clothing may take hundreds of years to decompose.
In Europe, the number of textile waste is also shocking – an enormous 9.35 million tonnes of textile waste are being landfilled or incinerated in the European Union each year, according to a recent study by Oakdene Hollins. The study also finds out that blended fabrics are causing significant problems for high-value recycling, as it is not possible to separate blended fibres by using mechanical processing and previous attempts at chemical recycling have proven both to be impractical and to cause environmental issues.
There are a variety of factors that make textile waste a global challenge. These factors include increasing textile consumption, lack of recycling awareness, and lack of infrastructure to manage textile recycling. Developed countries like the U.S. and the U.K. continue to consume large amounts of textile products, especially with the rise of the fast fashion industry, and produce a magnificent amount of textile waste.
In fact, more than 60 percent of clothes can be recycled and reused, and another 35 percent are recycled into wiping rags or are converted into basic fibres and made into new products. This leaves less than five percent that must be discarded. Luckily, there are more and more new and innovative textile recycling methods and ways to reduce textile waste that are gaining prominence around the globe and helping our planet.
The Bureau of International Recycling Textiles Division also suggests that the recycled textiles industry is extremely important for both global environmental sustainability and economic development. The world would also benefit from reducing the need for landfill space, lessening pressure on virgin resources, slashing pollution as well as energy and water consumption, and reducing the need for dyes and fixing agents.
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